Division has occurred exponentially over time within the Body of Christ for a variety of reasons. Some of it has to do with people wanting to follow one type of minister or leader over another. Other times it has to do with the “flavor” of a particular group of Christians and how well you seem to fit in (birds of a feather flock together). Unfortunately, a lot of division has also occurred due to our general lack of ability to get along with one another (e.g. so and so person or group did this to me and that was just not right so I’m going to go across the street and start my own church). But perhaps no greater cause of division has ever existed than the impossible efforts of man to put God in a doctrinal box.
Think of whatever controversial doctrine you will, and almost without exception the division that has been created is due in large part to people looking at the same truth from two different sides with each person insisting that their view is right and the other person’s is wrong. Now I am not talking about cultic ideas and beliefs which place a wide chasm between Christians and all others—disagreements on those issues are not only inevitable, they are necessary. No, what we are examining here are all those doctrines which, although they are seemingly opposite from each other, are each one found within the walls of evangelical Christianity consisting of true brothers and sisters in Christ who simply cannot agree on various points of disputable doctrine.
Perhaps you are thinking of a few of these doctrines now and wondering how I would respond if asked which viewpoint is right. That is our human tendency in a nutshell. We are always on the hunt for a black and white, right or wrong answer. “Is it this or is it that? Which is right? Surely both cannot be right!” And so we always think our finite minds can come to a right understanding of an infinite God if we just study more, think hard enough, meet the right teacher, etc. This would explain why anyone who has ever ventured to fellowship and/or learn from more than one part of the Body of Christ will soon realize that what they used to believe on a point of doctrine might not have been exactly right once they start to fellowship with those who take the alternative view.
So is it predestination or free will? Yes. Is it law or grace? Yes. Is it faith or works? Yes. Can I be saved without being baptized or do I need to be baptized too? Yes. Do I receive the Holy Spirit at time of conversion or do I receive Him later? Yes. Is Saturday the Sabbath or should I worship on Sunday? Yes. Is it best to meet in a church building or in a home? Yes. Can a person be saved in an instant or is it a life-long process? Yes. Does God accept us just as we are or does He expect us to strive for perfection? Yes. Is it once saved always saved or can someone fall away from the faith? Yes. Should I look to the bible as my guide or to the Holy Spirit? Yes. Is it okay to drink alcohol or is it better not to? Yes. Should a church fellowship be led by a pastor or elders or deacons or by all the members? Yes. Is it better to be a witness to others by what I say to them or by how I live my life? Yes. Are all the spiritual gifts for today too or have they somehow started to cease? Yes. Does God show judgment and wrath or love and mercy? Yes. Am I a sinner or a saint? Yes.
I know some of you are cringing right now. But here is my point that you cannot deny: The bible contains verses that support both views on all of the above mentioned doctrinal topics and there are no doubt many more we could mention. So the question is, if there are bible verses that support both sides of a doctrinal truth, then why not believe ALL the bible teaches even if with our limited mind we feel that it somehow contradicts itself? And please be careful of using those worn-thin arguments you heard from someone else about how we would know the right side of these disputable doctrines if we would only use proper hermeneutics and exegesis. Far too often that just means we think we should hold fast to the verses that support the view we’ve been taught to believe while completely ignoring all of those other verses that don’t quite fit in our particular doctrinal box.
At some point we have to let go of our preconceived ideas and what we have been taught in the past and simply come to the Word of God and accept ALL of it for what it says. Yes, you have to read it from Genesis to Revelation and understand it is an unfolding story with different covenants. But once you rightly find yourself in the New Testament under the covenant in which we live today as Christians and you see very plainly that the bible says things in support of both sides of the doctrines which are forever dividing us (often these are apparent in two verses that are side-by-side), you simply cannot pick and choose—holding on to one while you all but throw out the other. Is it not possible that we are guilty of looking at only one side of what is the whole truth? There are no doctrinal boxes big enough in which you can neatly place God.