I read a fantastic article from a professor I had at Western Seminary. I thought it would be helpful to summarize some of the thoughts from that article. We often struggle with understanding the weight of some issues over the other and how do we treat those who may disagree with us. I cannot deal with all that was written and I will reference a link to that article for those who would like to follow up with it. But this gives a basic way to think through these issues and is very helpful by Dr. Gerry Breshears (Professor of Theology at Western Seminary).
The primary point of His article is levels of certainty and how do we keep the main thing the main thing in our lives and churches. Issues can bring a deep sense of unity or they can bring great division. It is unfortunate that we often divide over issues that are less important than the more critical issues that define our existence as Christians. Dr. Breshears outlined four ways to think about these:
- Issues to “Die For” – these issues relate to the non-negotiables; those fundamental foundation of our faith that we cannot compromise or we are cease to be the church of Christ; these are the things that essentially define our existence. These are the things we should be willing to die for, or to put in a little different light, issues that we will never compromise. This will include things like – the authority and inspiration of the Scriptures; Trinity, the nature and work of Jesus (the Second person of the Godhead), justification and regeneration by grace alone through faith alone among other things that I won’t list here.
- Issues to “Divide Over” – while those who agree with us on the issues to “die for” are those we would consider part of the family of God there are other issues that we will divide for. We have different theological discussion that we divide over that affect the way we do life and what we value as a faith community. For example, Reformed and Arminians divide over understanding God’s sovereignty and election. Issues like baptism causes division in relationship to infants as opposed to adult believer baptism. While we divide over them unity is still a priority and essential element between groups. We may do things different and value different element of our understanding of the Scriptures but there is no reason not to be praying for those we divide with.
- Issues we “Debate For” – these issues are usually internal to a particular church or group. We may find ourselves disagreeing on things and may not entirely see things eye to eye but there is an important priority to maintain unity and fellowship. These issues can create debate or intense discussion but should not result in “dividing over”. If there is division and we break fellowship then something has gone wrong. These things often include roles and responsibilities of women in the church especially regarding leadership, age of the earth, eschatological issues (end times) and worship styles.
- Issues to “Decide For” – typically this is what Romans 14-15 talk about related to people’s behavior related to things not addressed. The Bible has many admonitions to not judge one another when it comes to these issues which would be considered non-essentials or things we would divide over. This will do with our liberty, being stumbling block and giving preference to one another. Now this is somewhat ambiguous in that you may need more specifics to connect the dots here I will allow you the link to read more if you want to explore it further. However, if you take these categories and use it as a grid to think about what issues are significant and which not it are will prove helpful as you think about levels of certainly in the Body of Christ.
Sincerely, Pastor Brad Little
“Gospel Unity and levels of Certainty” – Dr. Gerry Breshears https://www.westernseminary.edu/files/publications/magazine/WS_Magazine_Spring2017.pdf