October 17, 2017

What Hill Are You Willing To Die On?

Battle_of_bunker_hill_by_percy_moran

Thanks for a good discussion. Comments now closed.

Since I wrote last week about the World Vision decisions on their hiring policy, a number of writers have contributed their thoughts to the issue. One post by Tony Campolo generated an interesting bit of discussion on facebook among a couple of my friends. Tony wrote:

I am a Baptist and, as such, I believe I can make a strong Biblical case for believer’s baptism by immersion. However, I do not consider this to be a defining doctrine. I do not for a moment consider those who interpret differently than I do what scripture teaches concerning baptism to be any less Christian. Beliefs about baptism for most Evangelicals are not a defining issue. I must remember, however, that there was a time when they were. Wars were fought and persons were willing to be martyred because of differences on how and when people should be baptized.

So I would like to take this discussion in a different direction than it went last week. My friends and I got thinking about what we considered to be essentials. What issues would cause us to stop going to a church or not go to it in the first place? Is there a different list that would cause us to “break fellowship” with Christians that we interact with outside church?

I would like to offer up a few short observations of my own and then open up the floor to your own thoughts.

In the 1930s my Grandmother was a member of the Brethren in Christ, a Mennonite offshoot with Holiness (Wesleyan) influences. She was shunned (excommunicated) when she married my Grandfather. Why? Because the men is his church wore ties! I kid you not. In her church ties were considered to be a worldly trapping, and marrying someone who was so obviously entwined in the world was grounds for excommunication. We might laugh at such a concept now, but remember this happened just 80 years ago. I wonder what things that we are willing to break fellowship over today people will be laughing at 80 years from now. By the way, I should mention that my Grandfather spent most of his career as a Bible translator, and translated the Bible into Bemba, the most widely used tribal language in Zambia.

As for myself, I consider myself to be a creedal Christian. I hold to the Apostles and Nicene Creeds. I believe that they hold the key elements of what Christians everywhere have believed. They would be my “no go zones”, that is, if a Pastor started teaching contrary to the creeds, I would be in a “fight or flight” situation.

I am not a big fan of “Statements of Faith” as a result. Statements of Faith are popular in Evangelical churches, and typically list the distinctive points of doctrine held by a particular church or denomination that go beyond the creeds. While they are useful to defining what a church stands for, I find them very exclusionary. If I am honest with myself, I cannot affirm the Statements of Faith for most denominations, and so cannot in good faith become a member of their churches.

A number of years back my wife and I were looking for a church, and she suggested one that was very popular in our area. When we looked at their statement of faith we realized that the church believed in: Inerrancy, Cessationism, Dispensationalism, Complementarianism, and Calvinism. None of which I held to. Other churches had other statements that conflicted with my own personal beliefs. We eventually settled on what that only a couple things with which I took issue. To put some of our readers’ minds at ease. I don’t have to agree with everything in a statement of faith to attend a church, but it the thing that I have an issue with gets hammered over and over again from the pulpit, then I won’t last long.

A few years ago, my parents moved into a new town. They started attending a church and all seemed to go well for a while. Then the pastor started preaching on his two favorite topics: The Rapture, and Young Earth Creationism. These just happened to coincide with two topics on which my father had very different opinions to the Pastor. It wasn’t long before they were looking for a new church.

There have been times when a significant difference hasn’t been the biggest factor for us. About 15 years ago we helped start a Pentecostal church. Why a Pentecostal church? There was no other church in our area that came close to fitting our beliefs. So when we heard that a Church Planter was starting a Pentecostal Church in our town we decided to help out. I do not believe in the Pentecostal doctrine that speaking in tongues is the initial evidence for being filled with the Spirit. But… having an Evangelical presence in my home town was more important to me than the differences I had with the Pentecostal doctrine. I knew that I would have to put up with sermons that I didn’t like once or twice a year, and I was okay with that. It was a choice I made. We helped the church make the transition from the Church Planter to the second Pastor, and when we felt that God was calling us to another Church in another town, the Pentecostal Church had a time of prayer for us as we were “sent out.”

Other than the basics of the Christian faith as expressed in the creeds, I probably have only one hill that I would die on. I am an egalitarian. I believe that God gifts men and women for service as he chooses, and for me to restrict someone’s service because of their gender could be restricting what God wants to do. I also believe this is a gospel issue, as the church’s attitudes towards women have turned many away from the faith.

But enough about me. What about you? What is your hill? What is essential for you? Please keep the discussion civil as we are likely to find and express disagreement.

Remember, the most important hill is the one Jesus died on, and that ties all believers together.

Comments

  1. We’ll, CM, after 200 and so comments, what do you think of the results? What are the hills for most people, it was a little too much for me to read thru, but was kinda eye opening.

    • Well, It is Mike Bell, not Chaplain Mike. Easy to confuse us, but no so bad as when I practicing music for Sunday morning with Pastor Mike, and the sound man asked for [the] Mike to move forward.

      As for a summary. I am planning one for a future post.

  2. RE: The “Call to Action” – given that they got #s 1 and 2 wrong, how can we be expected to even trust this?

  3. RobertRx says:

    The Apostle’s Creed is the best foundation, after that we must let the Holy Spirit guide us and use our common sense. I like the idea of full body immersion, but have never done so. Maybe I am missing something. I also like the stations of the cross. It is not necessary, but it helps to fill one with the spirit. We all have so much to learn.