Question: What are the cases in which it is ok for theology to cause division among Christians?
#1: At the risk of being ambiguous, it is ok when there is stark disagreement over essential doctrines (note: there aren’t very many “essential” doctrines – e.g. deity of Christ, authority, not inerrancy, of scripture, etc.). To say it another way, when a group decides to embrace theological perspectives that veer from historically orthodox Christianity, it seems to me there is a case for division. However this division need not be enmity.
#2: I don’t believe that the study of God should ever separate us as a body of believers. Now it is ok to disagree on elements of theology, but never division within the church. Now, we see that it has happened and it will continue to happen. I think that there will be division until Jesus comes back.
#3: No, but seriously, I’m sure there is a case for almost every circumstance for division. The issue of salvation would be one of the biggies in my mind. Like, how someone is saved, where their security in salvation lies, and that stuff.
#4: I cannot think of any instance in which division is acceptable. Paul warns us to not be like children and test all things by the scripture, and also warns us against false teachers (1 Tim. 1:3-4, 6:1-5) All teachers will be held accountable by God, and Paul says only those who wish to deprive others of truth cause friction and arguments. Because I am not God, I cannot always tell who is right and who is wrong, and thus who is causing division, so yet again I hold all things to the Word’s doctrine (1 Tim. 1:3-4) So I would say there is never division in the truth, and someone has it, and to stand in opposition to it is sinful.
#5: I think that because we are not God, and because we can never fully understand him, there are probably going to be inconsistencies in beliefs among Christians. People can interpret the bible in different ways on certain issues… even if they disagree with one another. Obviously this division would not be ideal, because it can cause tensions and what not, but I think it’s pretty inevitable.
#6: First of all, I feel that it is necessary to make the distinction between “division” and “disagreement”. Disagreements often arise as a result of differing views and/or different levels of understanding; whereas, I think that division is often the result of pride and arrogance. Disagreements are inevitable; as people seek to learn and grow in wisdom and understanding there will be people at different stages of wisdom/understanding. Disagreements are necessary in the face of differing views where there is a right and wrong answer. Agreeing simply for the sake of peace and tolerance is often harmful when it comes to theology. That being said, I believe that it must be agreed that Jesus is the Christ (1 John 2:22) and that whoever believes in Him has eternal life (John 3:15)….I’m still trying to figure out all of the “non-negotiable” aspects of Christianity.
#7: Division should be the last resort. The times when the conflict is about style or matter of opinion shouldn’t divide, though they often do. The issues of doctrine where scripture is unclear shouldn’t divide, but rather all parties should be humble enough to say, “I don’t know the exact answer let’s continue to seek God’s guidance on how to think rightly together”. The issues that scripture clearly speaks to will cause division if one party’s belief is in direct opposition and they are unyielding to the scripture. Heresy cannot be tolerated. Every attempt should be made to win over the opposition to believe the truth of scripture.
#8: It is obviously okay for people to have different ideas about non-essential issues. On essential issues, however, it’s not okay. Realistically, if a group of faithful people cannot agree to some basic ideas and facts found in the Bible¬—including God’s power over all things, the deity of the historical person of Jesus Christ and his defeat of death, every person’s addiction to things that are harmful and are the cause for God’s sadness—then I think it would be worth their while to examine whether their system of beliefs was actually distinctly Christian to start.
#9: I think division is okay when it does not destroy our purpose to glorify God by loving Him above all and loving our neighbors as ourselves (including non-Christians and Christians who differ from us). As long as we are willing to discuss differences and still love each other despite those divisions, people outside of the faith will see that and God will be glorified through that.
#10: I honestly don’t know when it’s OK for theology to create division because I don’t know enough about theology. I feel that it was OK for Martin Luther to break away from Rome because the Catholic Church became too corrupt. I think there should be no divisions within Protestantism because they’re basically all the same – i.e. they’re not Catholic.
#11: I feel that a division is qualified when it takes place over something that is clearly taught in scripture (such as the Trinity, Baptisim, Election, etc…). I also feel that any division taking place over a teaching that directly contradicts scripture, demeans the blood of CHRIST, or slanders the character of GOD is warranted. However, Scripture also tells us of how to approach the subject and what types of attitude to have (1 Pet. 3:15, 2 Tim. 2:25, and Gal. 6:1)
#12: When the controlling portion of the Church is unwilling to reform its practices in an effort to attain true Christianity (i.e. Luther and Catholic Church)
#13: On matters central to the faith.
#14: Jesus prayed for us to be unified. His last prayer for his disciples, for us, was that we may be one, as he and the father are one. If we are going to be followers of Jesus, and that is what a Christian is, we are to be unified. Theology and doctrine have been dividing for a long time. Jesus leaves, and people start gravitating towards certain teachers. “I follow Paul’s teachings.” “Oh I’m more of an Apollos fan.” “Yeah well I follow Peter.” Paul saw this just years after Jesus left. What did he say? “Who are these men? Let us all follow Christ.”
#15: I don’t really think that there is ever a reason for there to be division among Christians. I think the only grounds for division are if people aren’t following Christ anymore, abiding by God’s word, believing that God raised Christ from the dead, and confessing Him as the one and only Savior. But then I guess they wouldn’t be Christians…
I guess the word division is pretty strong, like it definitely has a bad connotation. And when you think realistically, I don’t think people could really function without denominations, like I think our own pride and sin and desire to be right and all those things make denominations. And it’s much easier to come together with people who believe generally the same thing as you do. (However I would argue that most people sitting together in one congregation don’t have completely consistent theology with each other.) But at the same time I think if there are people in the congregation who are doing things that aren’t biblical, ie selling indulgences, then that would be a legit reason to break away…
#16: When someone or denomination has misused or misinterpreted the word of God to witness or teach others false things about God.
#17: Forced belief is perhaps the most certain way to prevent real belief. If division is the cost of freedom of belief, so be it. What is a shame is that there is not more ecumenical conversation. When humans can come to know perfectly, and share this knowledge perfectly, at that point division will be immoral.