the weblog of Alan Knox

Theological Differences

Posted by on Aug 27, 2010 in unity | 12 comments

Theological Differences

Paul had a weird way of handling theological differences:

Each one should be fully convinced in his own mind… So then let us pursue what makes for peace and for mutual upbuilding… Therefore accept one another as Christ has accepted you, for the glory of God. (Romans 14:1-15:7)

What was he thinking? If we love and accept and upbuild and have peace with one another, how we will know who’s right and who’s wrong?


12 Comments

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  1. 8-27-2010

    Alan,

    I like it!

  2. 8-27-2010

    I think that Paul wasn’t as concerned with all the different ways that people studied the stop sign, but more with whether they stopped. :)

  3. 8-27-2010

    I find it interesting that St. Paul extols to the Romans in Chapter 14 the very thing he says he confronted St. Peter about in Galatians Chapter 2.

  4. 8-27-2010

    Brian, I think Paul was confronting Peter more about his hypocrisy than what he really believed.

  5. 8-27-2010

    Fred, what was St. Peter’s hypocrisy? “For before that certain came from James, he did eat with the Gentiles: but when they were come, he withdrew and separated himself, fearing them which were of the circumcision.” In other words, St. Peter before the Jewish Christians showed up ate with the Gentiles, but when those from St. James came, St. Peter separated himself from them. Now, St. Paul says in Romans 14 that we should not let what we eat or drink (or what we don’t eat or drink or whether we celebrate certain days etc) be a stumbling block. It would appear that perhaps St. Peter was trying to not make eating with Gentiles a stumbling block to the Jewish Christians who arrived at Antioch. These were delicate times in the early Church. We have 2000 years of hindsight. St. Peter didn’t.

    I am certainly not saying that St. Paul should not have told St. Peter how hypocritical and unbecoming of the Gospel of the Lord Jesus he was, but we don’t have St. Peter’s side of the story, and the fact that St. Paul turns around and tells the Church at Rome that they should not let such things become a stumbling block leads me to believe that perhaps St. Paul was quick to confront St. Peter and after having time to think about it, he backed off somewhat in his own teaching.

  6. 8-27-2010

    or… Paul is demonstrating the difference between dealing with theological differences and dealing with sin. Paul thought that Peter sinned in the way that Peter treated the Gentile Christians after the Jewish Christians arrived. So, Paul confronted Peter about that.

    But, that still doesn’t mean that Paul separated himself from Peter. He still accepted Peter as a brother – which was the reason that he cared enough to confront him.

    Accepting one another does not mean that we do not discuss our differences. Instead, it means we love one another and treat one another as brothers/sisters in spite of our differences.

    -Alan

  7. 8-28-2010

    Alan, I agree with your assessment, yet I still wonder what St. Peter said in reply. Can we legitimately know St. Peter’s motivation based on St. Paul’s adminishion (is that even a word?) as it is written in Galations or do we simply see how St. Paul reacted to St. Peter’s actions?

    Regardless, St. Paul was correct to confront St. Peter because St. Peter’s actions were being interpreted by others like St. Barnabas in a manner which was not in accordance with the Gospel. I still think that on further reflection St. Paul was able to approach the issue in a much more appropriate fashion as is indicated in Romans 14 than St. Peter did with the arrival of the Jewish Christians at Antioch.

  8. 8-28-2010

    “pursue what [WHO!]makes for peace and for mutual upbuilding” … “as Christ accepted you…”

    Centering on Christ at all times Rather than on rules and regulations, on theological differences, etc. And together learning from Jesus (the word, our peace, our vine, the way, truth, life…) as His Spirit teaches and guides us…

    Yes, discussing those differences, but those discussions centered in the love of our Father freely given in Jesus.

    BTW, Saints Brian, Fred, and Paul: I enjoyed your interesting discussion on Saints Peter and Paul :-)

  9. 8-28-2010

    It seems to me that it would be improper to generalize what Paul, making it how he dealt with every doctrinal difference, because that just isn’t the case. This, and similar sections, were spoken to specific contexts and issues. Sometimes they were more about what we would call “standards” rather than what we call “doctrine.” He took a hard line on doctrinal issues elsewhere, as Jesus did in the letters to the churches in Revelation.

  10. 8-28-2010

    Brian,

    Yes. I think Galatians indicates that he approached Peter the way he did because Peter’s actions were “being interpreted by others… in a manner which was not in accordance with the Gospel.” Paul seemed to treat the Gospel differently that other doctrines.

    Norma,

    Yes. We will find our unity when we focus on Christ… who is our unity… and our peace… and our love… etc.

    Debtor Paul,

    Do you think Paul’s statements in Romans 14-15 were only intended for the specific theological differences that he mentions in that section of Scripture? If so, then his statements would be specific to those problems. If not, then his statements were intended to be more general in nature.

    -Alan

  11. 9-1-2010

    There is a big difference in a frank discussion, a heated disagreement and breaking fellowship where you treat someone like a tax-collector.

    This is why the church-as-a-family analogy works so well. You can have the biggest disagreements in families and still sit at the table for dinner.

  12. 9-1-2010

    Stephen,

    Yes, exactly.

    -Alan