Should Christians Debate Over Differing Views Of Doctrine?

by Jack Wellman · Print Print · Email Email

There is something to be said about searching for biblical truth, but what happens when there are differences between Christians over non-essential biblical doctrine?

Non-Essentials

Clearly, there is something to be said about searching for biblical truth, but what happens when there are differences between Christians over non-essential biblical doctrine? One example would be the vast differences found between beliefs in the rapture. Some believe in the mid-trib rapture, some in post trib raptures, and some in no rapture or tribulation at all. Some see Jesus’ Olivet Discourse as being fulfilled in 70 AD, while others see this as yet to come. Some say the millennium has come. Some say it will come, and yet others have differences somewhere in between, so who’s right when the Bible is not positively and absolutely clear on something? We may never know for sure until we enter the kingdom. Only then will we know about all these things, but those things that are clear are easy to understand and there is little or no debate about them. We could say, the main things are the plain things.

Essentials

There are some things that are not up for debate. The Bible is expressly clear on them. Things like Jesus’ being born of a virgin, His sinless life, His death on the cross, His resurrection, His divinity (He is God), His ascension into heaven, and His second coming to judge the world in righteousness. You must believe in those things or you don’t have the right Jesus. Jesus said whoever believes in Him will be saved (John 3:16), so that’s obviously not up for debate, but for those things deemed non-essential to salvation, we’re better off leaving those alone until we come to a perfect understanding about these things in the kingdom. For now, we are better off focusing on sanctification, growing in the Word, holiness, evangelism, and discipleship.

Jesus called us for these things and not to grasp for complete understanding about non-essential doctrines (like the rapture). You can believe in the rapture and be saved; you can disagree about there being a rapture, and still be saved; you can believe in the pre-tribulation rapture and still be saved just as well as those who believe in the mid-trib rapture, but if you’re wrong about Jesus, you may not be saved at all.

Division

The Trinity is not divided; Christ is not divided; and yet, many Christians divide over non-essential doctrines. How sad this must be for Jesus. Remember when Jesus struck down Saul on the Damascus Road and asked him why he was persecuting Him? Paul couldn’t figure out who it was He was persecuting. He thought he was persecuting the church, so Paul, after “falling to the ground, he heard a voice saying to him, “Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me” (Acts 9:4)? Jesus was saying that when you persecute Christians, you are persecuting Him (Acts 9:5)! And that’s what we do when we persecute those who disagree with us; we can belittle them, brow-beat them, talk down to them, and end up arguing with them. And worst of all, it’s usually about non-essential doctrines. I’ve seen others try to force their (“correct”) views upon others, and this never works. It only serves to drive a wedge between brothers and sisters.

A Christian Conference

Years ago, a man walked into a Christian conference. He looked around and saw one table that had a “Predestination” sign. Apparently that’s what they believed in and focused on. Then the man saw a table where it said, “Free Will” and figured, that’s what they believed in, but this man believed in both, so he walked over to the Predestination group and they asked him, “Why did you come here?” and he said, “I just wanted to.” They told him, “You don’t belong here. You need to go over to the Free Will table,” so he walked over to the Free Will table and they asked him, “Why did you come here” to which he said, “I was sent.”  They told him, “You don’t belong here.”  That poor man had no idea where to go, so he went over to a “Discipleship” table and he felt welcomed and that he was meant to come here. One thing about it; there is very little humility in settings such as these where doctrines are debated or argued over.

The Word as Weapon

Christian Ways To Deal With Difficult PeopleWe often try to prove our point with Scriptures, but what happens is a war of the Word. They wield different Bible verses and use them like a sword, as if a weapon, but they use it on other believers! A Bible study can quickly escalate into a “holy war,” but we know God is not pleased with that and we know God opposes the proud and gives grace only to the humble (James 4:6). The old axiom is still true: “In essentials, unity; in non-essentials, liberty; in all things, charity.” This has been attributed to Saint Augustine, but whoever originally said it, it is so true. I can disagree and not be disagreeable, but it’s far too easy to disagree and be disagreeable, but that’s a breeding ground for pride, and sometimes even contempt for others who disagree with you. Obviously, that is sin.

Conclusion

If you are persecuting, or even debating or arguing with fellow believers, you are actually persecuting Christ Himself. And that’s serious to Jesus! Jesus is the Head of the Body and He feels every bit of pain and He hears every single word uttered to the members of His body. The Word of God admonishes us to “avoid foolish controversies, genealogies, dissensions, and quarrels about the law, for they are unprofitable and worthless” (Titus 3:9), including, “irreverent babble, for it will lead people into more and more ungodliness” (2 Tim 2:16). Christians are not “to quarrel about words, which does no good, but only ruins the hearers” (2 Tim 2:14). That’s right! These debates do lead to the ruin of the hearers and everyone around them! The best counsel I can give you is “Have nothing to do with foolish, ignorant controversies; you know that they breed quarrels” (2 Tim 2:23), and “have nothing to do with irreverent, silly myths. Rather train yourself for godliness” (1 Tim 4:7).

If you’ve never repented and put your trust in Christ, then you cannot change your nature and judgment is surely coming; after death (Dan 12:2-3; Heb 9:27) or at Jesus’ appearance (Rev 20:12-15). Our human nature is tilted toward negativity, sin, violence, and all kinds of evil, but for those who trust in Christ, they have a new nature (2 Cor 5:17) and can now stand before God on judgment day (2 Cor 5:21). Without Him, there is no other way (John 14:6).

Here is some related reading for you: What is the Rapture: A Look at Different Views

Resource – Scripture quotations are from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version® (ESV®), Crossway Bibles. (2007). ESV: Study Bible: English standard version. Wheaton, Ill: Crossway Bibles. Used by permission. All rights reserved.





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