To preface my thoughts, I want to ask that each of you who read this, read all the way to the end before making a judgment call.
I would like to chime in on the valid points raised by Chris in the previous post. One of our readers, Jon Gleason commented on the issue of “working togetherism” which is one as I have seen way too often the problem that comes with everybody seeking unity at the expense of doctrinal purity just so they can “work” together. The end result ends up being things like ECT (Evangelicals and Catholics Together) or the Manhattan Declaration just to name a few. The results are not what is intended and where does the line in the sand actually get drawn. I have seen this in Europe, America, and in West Africa.
My dear friend and brother, Chris, mentioned as an example that he and another brother disagree on soteriology but still work together for the sake of the gospel. Of course, without knowing the specific points in question, this has always been a huge issue with me, because we are dealing with matters of eternity more times than not when we are talking about the doctrine of salvation. You cannot teach salvation by faith alone when or if the “brother” is teaching the addition of works, baptism, or whatever. As a small side note, I do not believe this is the case with Chris.
In my understanding of Scripture, this cannot be a joining of hands if such views take place. I understand there can be variations though on smaller points within the overall foundational truths. For instance, I would struggle to work with somebody from the Church of Christ, or Methodist, or Catholic because they all fall under the same boat – they believe and teach contrary to the Scriptures in the doctrine of Sola Fide.
The question is “How can two walk together except they are in agreement?” How can I stand in the pulpit or on a street corner giving forth a gospel appeal if the person preceding or following me is teaching a different means or way of salvation? Or, even how can this take place if the other “brother” insists that the salvation of the human soul is somehow in the remit of those who are completely and totally dead in trespasses and sins?
Is our desire to go on mission or preach each Sunday from the pulpit or share a tract or CD on a street corner so pressing that we will negotiate fundamentals of the faith or the truths for which our forefathers and the Reformers (as an example) laid down their lives because there was no compromise to be found.
However, I would ask if we remember Martin Luther? “Here I stand, I can do no other.” His reference was to the Bible alone – Sola Scriptura! Too often, we, as evangelicals and fundamentalists have a pathetic tendency to “read INTO” the Scriptures what we want it to say and these areas then become “fundamentals of the faith.” For example, type of hymns used or not used, Bible versions, rapture or no rapture, the timing of rapture if you hold to this point, Sunday school or none, etc., etc., etc.
We should well remember that where Scripture is silent, that we should remain silent. Where the Scriptures are not decisively clear, in those areas there can be room for flexibility and even working with others. Sadly in my past, I have found myself sitting in various camps on some of the above issues and refusing to get along with those who held varying (mostly only slightly different) views than my own.
What a travesty and I can certainly understand the frustration that comes when we see the bickering and arguing that takes place within our circles. In the meantime, the cults continue to take away people to their perdition because we are MORE concerned about being right than with being Biblical! Then, to our chagrin instead of finding a Biblical position, if we are not careful we will swing to the realm of ecumenicalism where all hold hands together and sing “Kumbaya” or “Michael, row the boat to shore.”
Can we proceed without “demonizing” or “anathematizing” others? Yes, we can and should if the issues are only on a secondary or tertiary level. However, I am convinced that places like DefCon and all those involved should insist that on ALL primary levels of doctrine, that there will be no compromise for any reason or for any person. There is a place for discernment and one cannot read the New Testament epistles and not realize the depths of effort that went into the writings of these men to pursue truth in all realms of early Christianity. Yes, we are even highly admonished to rebuke those who are seen departing from the faith AND from what was taught to them.
I for one will not give my support of some of those who claim to be ministers of the gospel when what they are preaching is leading people down a primrose path to destruction or is defaming the name and cause of Jesus Christ. This would most certainly include people like Mark Driscoll, John Piper, Rick Warren, Billy Graham, and Ravi Zacharias who are openly endorsing anything and everything from New Age thought to Roman Catholic mystics.
As a loving word of caution, I do not believe all these men necessarily started out with the intention of climbing in bed with everybody all for “the sake of the gospel.” It was gradual but the end result was still the same. My point here is not one of disagreement with Chris, but a clarification of my own thoughts on what is and should be important to those who claim the name of Christ.
To summarize, when we find ourselves disagreeing on tertiary or secondary issues, there is nothing wrong with debate or enjoying a coffee together. Some secondary issues may be another person’s tertiary issues though and we must have the discernment and wisdom to see that others may see things differently. We may not be able to work with somebody in realms such as swapping pulpits with another with whom we disagree on secondary or tertiary issues, but it does not mean (as Chris has rightly stated) that we must tear them to strips or “condemn” them to hell for those differences.
However, when the doctrinal truth is at stake and we are dealing with the core doctrines of the Scripture, there cannot and must not be any compromise. If at the end of the day, we have compromised just so we can share the gospel, we will find that the gospel we proclaim has also been compromised and we will be seeking to give free tickets to the celestial kingdom all because we failed to stand firm in the faith once delivered to the saints.