I have called a heretic, labeled a fool, told that I am obviously too simple to understand the errors in my thinking, and virtually challenged to a duel by a self-proclaimed expert on Reformed theology. I have seen others abused, taunted in verse and lyric, and categorized as clowns for their theological positions. The overall tenor of debate over matters theological is becoming more and more rancorous and divisive with one recent posting labeling all of those in Christ’s church who don’t believe as the writer did as “deceived” and headed to Hell. This atmosphere has caused me to sharply curtail my posting in recent weeks as I reevaluated any contribution that it might have to greater work of the Church.
And then I reread a favorite quote by Annie Dillard…
On the whole, I do not find Christians, outside of the catacombs, sufficiently sensible of conditions. Does anyone have the foggiest ideas of what sort of power we so blithely invoke? Or, as I suspect, does no one believe a word of it? The churches are children playing on the floor with their chemistry sets, mixing up a batch of TNT to kill a Sunday morning. It is madness to wear ladies’ straw hats and velvet hats to church; we should all be wearing crash helmets. Ushers should issue life preservers and signal flares; they should lash us to our pews.
Pride abounds in certain theological circles with much chest pounding among writers over sudden revelations in life that cause them to suddenly pledge allegiance to one systematic way of interpreting the Bible or another. Where Pride rules, charity vanishes and it has become de rigueur to label any other theological system heretical at worst, and childish and misguided at best. We would do well to consider the many who came before us who were martyred as heretics only to be exonerated with the passage of time. Where would the English speaking world be without the first steps of William Tyndale?
I would implore those who judge another Christian’s belief to consider what spiritual gift they have been given that allows them to peer into the heart of another man and discern the work that God is doing there. Is it a biblical gift? Can you provide others with chapter and verse so that we might study it? Until such time as you are absolutely certain that one position is correct and another is not (and remember, one rapidly growing church gains assurance of the correctness of their theology through a burning in the bosom), we would all do well to remember the Lord’s words in John 17:
My prayer is not for them alone. I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message, that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me. I have given them the glory that you gave me, that they may be one as we are one: I in them and you in me. May they be brought to complete unity to let the world know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me.
To paraphrase Miss Dillard, remember who it is we write about so blithely…