By the grace of God, the Church has broken free from the bondage of what has been popularly referred to as “the Dark Ages”, during which church officials possessed an extraordinary amount of political power. For some time thereafter, Christians persecuted Christians—even to the point of death. Historically, the persecution of heretics was justified because church authorities believed that what they identified as false teachings were just as horrendous as the most heinous of killings. They were convinced that those who were deceived by “heretics” were essentially being led into postmortem slaughter; which was, according to their paradigm, much worse than murder.
Even though we are no longer enveloped by the darkness of those ages, anathemas are now pronounced with just about as much fervor and disdain as they were in times past. The only real difference between then and now, aside from the obvious fact that believers are slaying spirit rather than mere body, is the democratic tendency for just about anyone who has an opinion on what is written in the Bible to have the audacity to, in one way or another, condemn their brothers and sisters in Christ. The misappropriation of doctrinal propositions is just as prevalent as ever.
Christians rightly proclaim that Scripture is God-breathed. Yet, many also mistake their understanding of Scripture with the authority and inerrancy of scripture. Everyone who identifies themselves as a follower of Jesus has some sort of an opinion on what the Bible teaches. Needless to say, there is no consensus on the “correct” interpretation of every passage in the Bible. It is no surprise that every professing Christian believes that their theological convictions are valid. Otherwise, their “convictions” would not be their own.
As a result of faulty assumptions, many, whose beliefs do not line up with modern-day orthodoxy, are treated as though they have been deceived or intentionally dishonest. In a previous blog post, I mentioned how many are convinced that they could not possibly be mistaken theologically because they believe that the Holy Spirit has revealed the absolute, undiluted truth to them. Some are more studious than others as they examine the scriptures; while others yet do not bother to invest any amount of effort into hermeneutics, but rely solely on “special” revelation. Nevertheless, neither group is any less committed than the other to their supposed inerrancy.
Thousands of denominations have formed specifically because of this mindset. Division in the body of Christ has been become acceptable and room for disagreement has become offensive. Churches have split over the most petty of differences, only to establish yet another brand of churchianity with constitutions that shun those who cross their thresholds; that is, unless they are willing to be congregational yes-men. Christianity has dulled any opportunities for iron to sharpen iron. Pastors spend most of their time preaching to the choir and far too little time teaching their congregants that Christ expects us to test all things as we carry out our ministry of reconciliation. Even though more unity has developed over time, the division that remains is sobering.
If we fail to test the presuppositions that are dearest to our hearts, we will fail to persevere till the end and to hold fast onto that which is good and true. If we cannot possibly be mistaken with any aspect of what we have come to believe, we will label nearly everyone that crosses our path as deceived/dishonest and probably as a heretic that fosters apostasy. If we do not strive to preserve liberty regarding issues that are not essential to saving faith, we will remain at war with those who are within and the battle will be all but won by the enemy from without.