Friday, May 08, 2009

We shall endeavor to keep the unity of the Spirit until we all come into the unity of the faith, at the same time admonishing all brethren that they shall not contend for their different views to the disunity of the body


This is the closing line of the Fundamental Doctrine of the UPCI.  The basis of our fellowship is our beliefs in the oneness of God and salvation.  In all else we are guided by the Articles of Faith and, more importantly, Romans 14 .  Or at least that was the way it was originally intended.  But since these words were originally penned, peripheral issues have become more and more important.  This is not just occurring in the AP movement, however.


In a challenging article about the Southern Baptist Convention's struggle with the issue of alcohol, Eric Reed discusses how different groups have responded to peripheral issues.  He quotes historian Mark Noll: "Some evangelicals have made opinion on liquor [insert television, casual preachers, or any other "AP issue" here] more important for fellowship and cooperation…than attitudes toward the person of Christ or the nature of salvation."  In other words, it's easy to make peripheral issues more important than Jesus.


in Paul's day, the primary holiness standard up for debate was circumcision.  There was even a faction that would refuse to fellowship with Gentile Christians who had not undergone this rite.  When Peter sought to please this faction by separating himself from Gentiles in Antioch , Paul famously got in his face and said that "their conduct was not in step with the truth of the Gospel."  Why?  Because they were elevating personal standards of holiness (not a bad thing to have) above love for their brothers and sisters in Christ. 


It is important to have personal convictions about holiness.  It is important for pastors to draw lines that are contextual to their communities.  But when these lines--when these convictions--turn into walls that keep out fellow Christians, then we have lost sight of the Gospel. 


Thanks to Toby Stevens for turning me on to this article.  For a different AP response to it, and a call back to mission, read his post here .


josh r


Toby Stevens said...

I like this site, and the info on it.

This particular issue is a heavy one, and the longer we wait to deal with these issues in our churches, the bigger the issues get, the more divisions occur, and the more confused God's people become about truth.

I started a church 3 years ago. The conglomeration of people we now have come from all backgrounds ... with all kinds of weird baggage that falls into this category. This is not just an apostolic issue. It is a "humanity trying to figure God out" issue.

I wrote my master's thesis on this topic ... how could I make this available to people?

Anonymous said...

Thank you for the thought-provoking post. Bravo!