I recently came across a Wendell Berry quotation that poked my surmising. Berry said, “Some Christian spokesmen give the impression that the highest Christian bliss would be to get to Heaven and find that you are the only one there -- that you were right, and all the others wrong.”
Sadly, in the Northern Ireland churches there are so many such spokesmen. There seem to be those who find the joy of their ministries in seeking error in the theology of their brothers and sisters in Christ and then going after them publicly.
I have brothers and sisters in the faith who hold to a range of theological opinion. Many are much more liberal in their views than me and many others are way more conservative. I value both. My own understanding of Scripture and lived out discipleship benefits from honing my own theology off both sides.
So, I am not against church leaders holding more conservative or liberal views. My concern is the posture by which they hold that theology.
I have always been suspicious of those who attempt as hard as they can to exclude others from the community of faith. When they go seeking reasons to count people out.
Jesus never considered our theological understanding, never mind purity, as a means of salvation. Grace through faith in a following of Jesus is the call to be a Christian. Theological knowledge is a constant quest and there is nowhere where a theological error outweighs and therefore negates the work of Jesus incarnation, death, resurrection of ascension.
Someone else’s theological position never concerns me. The posture by which people hold their theological views concerns me greatly as I watch the spiritual damage that it has done.
When someone believes that their theological position is infallible the arrogance that comes with that will cause them to become judgemental causing the discord, dissensions and factions that Paul describes as the acts of the flesh in Galatians 5.
Theology held by grace and the fruit of the Spirit, on the other hand, can become a very helpful resource for spiritual formation and theological understanding. A deep love for a brother or sister has to be the only Jesus’ way to share theological difference, holding the body of Christ together at every cost.
As I put it in this benediction, carrying our faith needs the Jesus posture, a posture of gentleness and humility in its courageous conviction.
Lord, save me from a heaven where I am isolated with a few others who believe exactly like me!
God, give us a confidence in you
But let grace keep us from arrogance
God, give us a strength of conviction
But let us share it humbly
God may we believe courageously
But help us carry it gently
Lord, may we go forward with vision
But help us to be careful that we do not abuse your grace to feed our own self righteousness
But use your grace to feed the world’s deepest needs.