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Denominations and Divisions in the Church

For the discussion of the distinctives of the various mainstream Christian denominations

Re: Denominations and Divisions in the Church

Postby Singalphile » Sun Jun 25, 2017 2:40 pm

At the very least, we should have "fellowship" (however it's defined) with all believers. I would just point out that in those statements from 1 John 1, the emphasis is walking in the light and being cleansed from sin, which would appear to be a reference to our behavior. That is usually the emphasis in Scripture as it concerns our responsibilities in the kingdom, I think. There is never, to my knowledge, an emphasis on having correct opinions about non-behavioral theological matters, except for those core views listed above. That is one of my main points: Biblically, theological opinions (other than those few core ones) are just not very important, and we should not divide or quarrel about them.
... that all may honor the Son just as they honor the Father. John 5:23
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Re: Denominations and Divisions in the Church

Postby Homer » Mon Jun 26, 2017 10:47 am

It is interesting that we seem to gather together based primarily on our opinions and no so much based on behavior. The problem with opinions is that they are just that - opinions. And being fallible, and given that no one person or group is perfect in their understanding of God's will, we are all mistaken about some things. But we tend to gather together with those who share our mistakes. We do not gather with the folks at the church down the street from ours because of their mistakes, which are different from ours. But Jesus loves and is in fellowship with them just as He is with us, in spite of our mistakes, as long as we are struggling after Him on that narrow path.

We should be like Him. If He was like most of us, intolerable concerning the mistaken opinions we all have, He wouldn't fellowship with anyone would He?
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Re: Denominations and Divisions in the Church

Postby dwight92070 » Sat Jul 01, 2017 11:47 am

Singalphile wrote:At the very least, we should have "fellowship" (however it's defined) with all believers. I would just point out that in those statements from 1 John 1, the emphasis is walking in the light and being cleansed from sin, which would appear to be a reference to our behavior. That is usually the emphasis in Scripture as it concerns our responsibilities in the kingdom, I think. There is never, to my knowledge, an emphasis on having correct opinions about non-behavioral theological matters, except for those core views listed above.

Dwight speaking: I do agree with what I think one of your main points is, that (ideally) all believers can have fellowship with all other believers, regardless of our opinions. After all, ultimately we will all be together in heaven. However, in heaven, I don't think that our opinions won't matter anymore - rather that we will all have the same opinion concerning the truth. Unfortunately, even though we are all one in Christ, regardless of our opinions, I do believe that our opinions on non-essential issues can and often do hinder our day-to-day relationships with each other. So that ideal fellowship won't be fully realized until the next life.

That is one of my main points: Biblically, theological opinions (other than those few core ones) are just not very important, and we should not divide or quarrel about them.


Dwight speaking: I agree that we should not quarrel about them, but debating them in a spirit of love and gentleness is healthy and even educational and can be, life-changing for the good. (Iron sharpens iron) In fact, if we are to grow spiritually, theological discussions, which will include disagreements, are essential.
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Re: Denominations and Divisions in the Church

Postby dwight92070 » Sat Jul 01, 2017 12:09 pm

Homer wrote:I But we tend to gather together with those who share our mistakes. We do not gather with the folks at the church down the street from ours because of their mistakes, which are different from ours. But Jesus loves and is in fellowship with them just as He is with us, in spite of our mistakes, as long as we are struggling after Him on that narrow path.

Dwight speaking: So are you saying that each time we meet, we should meet with a different group of believers, so we can demonstrate our tolerance for and love for Christians who don't agree with us? So, in Denver there are literally thousands of meetings for Christians every week. Should I meet at a different one each week to prove to everyone and even myself that I am truly in fellowship with every believer in Denver? This would not only be foolish and impractical, but it would also be downright destructive to my spiritual growth and I doubt if the fellowships that I visit would benefit much either.

We should be like Him. If He was like most of us, intolerable concerning the mistaken opinions we all have, He wouldn't fellowship with
anyone would He?


Dwight speaking: Just because I go to the same church each week and don't choose to visit the church down the street, this doesn't mean that I am intolerant of them and that I do not consider them part of the body of Christ.
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Re: Denominations and Divisions in the Church

Postby Singalphile » Sat Jul 01, 2017 3:05 pm

dwight92070, I agree that there's nothing wrong with debating such things, in the same way that there's nothing wrong with debating which sports team is better or something like that. And I also realize that it would be impossible for anyone to gather together with all every other Christian in your area, unless you're in a really rural area. That's not the issue for me.
... that all may honor the Son just as they honor the Father. John 5:23
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Re: Denominations and Divisions in the Church

Postby Singalphile » Sun Jul 02, 2017 12:36 pm

I've talked about when we should divide over what we call "doctrine" (answer: almost never). But the other part of this question is about behavior.

At what point do we separate from those who have different opinions about Christian behavior? This is the more difficult and important question, I think.

Examples: Head coverings, "tithing", divorce and remarriage, wealth stewardship, joining a military, various sexual behaviors, methods and age of baptism, drinking alcohol, other sacraments, etc.

  1. There are apparently legitimate doubtful or grey areas (Romans 14). So we can't just divide over every difference.

  2. Again in Romans 14 (14:19ff), when we disagree, we should resolve to not put a stumbling block in front of anybody, and we should pursue peace and edification. I take that to mean that we should strive to accommodate differing behavioral opinions.

  3. At the same time, there are times when we are instructed to "purge the old leaven" and have nothing to do with someone who calls himself a brother and yet is covetous, or a cheat, or fornicator, etc. (Eph 5, 1 Cor 5).

How do we determine when to tolerate and when to purge?

  1. We have to rely on the Holy Spirit. Jesus and His apostles didn't tell us about everything, but many behaviors are repeatedly and plainly condemned, often in both the OT and NT.

  2. 1 Cor 12 and Gal 5 tell us about the Spirit, the fruit of which are listed as "love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control." Those are all matters of character/behavior.

  3. The Spirit also gives some people the gift of teaching and wisdom (1 Cor 12) - not necessarily about mathematics or astronomy or systematic theology, but certainly about the things/fruit of the Spirit, as taught by Jesus and the apostles - and we should listen to such men and women. This is probably not quite as relevant now as it was hundreds of years ago, since we can almost all read and easily see what Scripture has to say about something in mere seconds. Still, there are those who commit much more time to that and have a specific gift from the Holy Spirit.

  4. A person who is walking in the Spirit will not carry out the things of the flesh (Gal 5).

I have to conclude, then, that a person who without apology sins (or approves of sin) against instruction that I see as plainly and repeatedly taught in Scripture must not have the spirit of Christ and must not be in Christ (Rom 8:9). At minimum, he or she has to be expelled from among the church and essentially considered an unbeliever. That person would first need be gently confronted and given the opportunity for repentance and so on (Gal 6:1, Matt 18).

That would be true even if the person does not know anything about Scripture or disagrees that my definition or interpretation of Scripture is correct (none of which in and of themselves are sinful acts). For if one is in Christ, he or she would have the Spirit of Christ, the Holy Spirit, and the Spirit would not, I think, allow him or her to behave sinfully without conviction. (Whereas I see little to no indication that the Spirit won't allow a person to have an incorrect opinion about, say, geometry or some non-behavioral, abstract theological question or curiosity.)

Another option, I guess, would be to simply give all such authority to a person or persons to define what is right and wrong for all believers (as in, I guess, RC or LDS and the like).

That's very long! But any thoughts?
... that all may honor the Son just as they honor the Father. John 5:23
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Re: Denominations and Divisions in the Church

Postby Homer » Sun Jul 02, 2017 5:21 pm

Singalphile,

You wrote:

That would be true even if the person does not know anything about Scripture or disagrees that my definition or interpretation of Scripture is correct (none of which in and of themselves are sinful acts). For if one is in Christ, he or she would have the Spirit of Christ, the Holy Spirit, and the Spirit would not, I think, allow him or her to behave sinfully without conviction.


But if one is a "babe" in Christ they could be in sin due to ignorance. And this brings about the argument about what the Spirit can accomplish apart from the Word. And then this brings us to doctrine. We (the church) are collectively charged with making disciples, "teaching them to obey everything I commanded you". That which is taught is doctrine,a word scorned in some circles. So the question I would pose is would the Holy Spirit convict someone of sin if they were ignorant of the teaching that a particular behavior was sinful?

Today we have a dilemma in that the doctrine of some, who claim the name of Christ, teaches that gay sex is not sin in some circumstances. This is a matter of opinion about what is acceptable behavior. So in this case we have two sinful behaviors, IMO, false teaching and fornicating. And for those with "itching ears" in this circumstance, would there be any conviction of sin by the Spirit?
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Re: Denominations and Divisions in the Church

Postby Singalphile » Sun Jul 02, 2017 7:05 pm

Homer wrote:But if one is a "babe" in Christ they could be in sin due to ignorance.


Agreed. That is possible at least for a time, I think.

Homer wrote:And this brings about the argument about what the Spirit can accomplish apart from the Word. And then this brings us to doctrine. We (the church) are collectively charged with making disciples, "teaching them to obey everything I commanded you". That which is taught is doctrine,a word scorned in some circles.


The word "doctrine" is often scorned by some, including me, the way it is normally used today. But you define it correctly, I think, as "that which is taught/instructed," and I don't scorn that at all. We really need doctrine in that sense, which is the biblical sense, I think.

As for an argument about what the Spirit can accomplish apart from the Word, I am not aware of that argument. But we could just limit ourselves to a bit of Scripture: "The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control."

Homer wrote:So the question I would pose is would the Holy Spirit convict someone of sin if they were ignorant of the teaching that a particular behavior was sinful?


That is an important part of this issue (when to divide from those who call themselves Christians), imo. I would answer, yes. I think the Holy Spirit will still produce that fruit in any believer, which would convict that person of his or her sin, though not necessarily all in an instant.

Homer wrote:Today we have a dilemma in that the doctrine of some, who claim the name of Christ, teaches that gay sex is not sin in some circumstances. This is a matter of opinion about what is acceptable behavior. So in this case we have two sinful behaviors, IMO, false teaching and fornicating. And for those with "itching ears" in this circumstance, would there be any conviction of sin by the Spirit?


That is a good example. My own brief answer to that question is, yes. If there is no conviction or repentance after gentle correction and instruction and church discipline, then we should have nothing to do with that person (as part of the church). It would seem that such a person does not have the Spirit of Christ and should at least not be treated as a brother, though there is some question in my mind as to that person's condition (1 Cor 5:5).) That is a difficult thing to do for me, but it is what we're instructed.

That is entirely different from some non-behavioral theological dispute. As a random example, a person may be of the opinion that the Father has a physical body like us. That may be a wrong opinion, but it's not an opinion that the Bible says damns a person, to my knowledge. As long as he or she is not divisive about it, then I won't be divisive about it either.
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