the weblog of Alan Knox

No, we can’t just get along

Posted by on Jun 28, 2011 in chain blog, unity | 18 comments

This is the ninth post in a chain blog on “Dealing with Traditionally Divisive Issues” that I started last week. (See my post “Chain Blog: Dealing with Divisive Issues Introduction.”) At the bottom of this post, you’ll find links to the other link posts in the chain blog. If you haven’t read them yet, you should, because they are all very good and they all approach the topic from a different perspective.

The church is divided. (Obvious statement of the century.) Many Christians are divisive – separating from other brothers and sisters in Christ for insignificant reasons – well, insignificant to everyone else.

These statements, as I said, are obvious – to almost everyone. Divisiveness among the church is so prevalent that many people come up with “theological” reasons to justify their divisiveness – reasons that sound very, well, reasonable.

But, let’s be honest. When we read Scripture, we find that there are legitimate reasons to separate from others who claim to be brothers and sisters in Christ. Perhaps, as we think about dealing with traditionally divisive issues, it would be good to think about these reasons to separate in Scripture.

What are those reasons?

  1. Unrepentant Sin (Matt 18:15-20; 1 Cor 5:1-5)
  2. Disorderliness (2 Thess 3:6)
  3. Refusal to Work (2 Thess 3:7-10)
  4. False Teaching (2 Thess 3:14-15; 1 Tim 1:20; 2 John 10-11)
  5. Divisiveness (Rom 16:17-18; Titus 3:10-11)

First, did you notice that last item? That’s right, “divisiveness” is a reason to separate from other Christians. If someone claims to be a child of God but divides from other Christians for invalid reasons, then we are to stay away from that person. Interesting, huh?

Of course, most people would agree that we should separate from those who claim to be Christians who fall into one of the categories above (well, except for #3 and #5, and sometimes we even reward them).

So, how do we approach these issues? How do we understand them? Is separation automatic even in the cases listed above? If not, why not?

What about false teaching? Is “false teaching” any teaching that I or my church, leaders, denomination, etc. disagree with? If not, then what is “false teaching”?

Where do we go from here?

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Chain blog rules:

1) If you would like to write the next blog post (link) in this chain, leave a comment stating that you would like to do so. If someone else has already requested to write the next link, then please wait for that blog post and leave a comment there requesting to write the following link.

2) Feel free to leave comments here and discuss items in this blog post without taking part in the actual “chain”. Your comments and discussion are very important in this chain blog.

3) When you write a link in this chain, please reply in the comments of the previous post to let everyone know that your link is ready. Also, please try to keep an updated list of links in the chain at the bottom of your post, and please include these rules at the bottom of your post.

—————————————————-

“Links” in this chain blog:

1. “Chain Blog: Dealing with Divisive Issues Introduction” by Alan
2. “Chain Blog: Dealing with divisive issues starts with love” by Arthur
3. “I am divisive” by Jeremy
4. “Chain Blog: Please agree with me” by Jon
5. “Division and our shared humanity” by Andy
6. “Chain Blog: solving the problem” by Bobby
7. “Divisiveness: Acts 2 & Ugly Carpet” by fallenpastor
8. “Stimulating our Collective Memory” by Trista
9. “No, we can’t just get along” by Alan
10. “Who says we are divided?” by Jon
11. “Disunity and the mind of Christ” by Fred
12. “We Are United in Our Division” by Andy
13. “Finding Equilibrium: ‘rest in one another’” by Sherry
14. “Don’t talk about my momma” by JRo
15. Who will write the next “link” post in the chain?


18 Comments

Comments are closed. If you would like to discuss this post, send an email to alan [at] alanknox [dot] net.

  1. 6-28-2011

    #4 is the real crux of it, isn’t it? What is a “false teaching”? There was a time when I would have inclulded “Arminianism”, dispensationalism and infant baptism in that category. I still diasgree with all three of those but do they rise to the level of false teaching? I certainly wouldn’t let someone baptize my unregenerate child for the sake of unity but I wouldn’t see them baptizing their infant children as reason to break fellowship, even if I think they were wrong to do so. I spent the last couple of years in Michigan in a group that held more or less to a dispensational hermeneutic, which I likewise disagree with but we still had wonderful fellowship with them.

    So what then? Certainly any teaching that denies the Gospel by either subtracting from it or adding to it rises to the level of false teaching. What about presuming to speak for God where He has not spoken (false prophecy?) This is a tough one.

  2. 6-28-2011

    Arthur,

    I agree that “false teaching” is the crux of the issue… once we actually get to the issue. Too often, Christians are still separating from one another over other issues that have nothing to do with “false teaching.”

    But, concerning false teaching, I think it is interesting to observe have the creeds and confessions began very simply, but were then expanded and expanded to include all types of issues.

    -Alan

  3. 6-28-2011

    I would like to write #10 if that’s okay.

  4. 6-28-2011

    Fred,

    Awesome! Just paste a link here in the comments when your post is ready.

    -Alan

  5. 6-28-2011

    Well, it depends.

    “If not, why not?”

    In Paul’s writing to the Galatians, chapters 5-6 we see a spectrum there from calling out the false teaching (circumcision, bondage to the law) and wishing them cut off from the false teachers (Gal. 5:7-12 similar to Romans 16 above), to an admonishment to take care not to consume one another, to walk by the Spirit that the lust of the flesh not be fulfilled (Gal. 5:15-16), to seek to restore a brother overtaken in a fault (Gal. 6:1).

    I can see #2-5 being ‘first offenses’ that can become #1 if not corrected. Paul also instructed Timothy on dealing with some of these issues and used words like patience and long-suffering (2 Tim. 2).

    Cutting-off is much easier than walking in the Spirit and exercising patience. But sometimes it is warranted.

  6. 6-28-2011

    Eric,

    Yes, Paul was very rough with the Galatians, but not quite as rough on the Corinthians. And, he told Timothy to be gentle… So interesting…

    -Alan

  7. 6-28-2011

    Hi Alan, I appreciate that list of Scripture of reasons. Great addition to the conversation.

    But if you gets to add two posts to this chain blog on the topic of unity, I will too. If I’m not allowed I will become very divisive and start my own chain blog all by myself. :)

    #10
    http://jonjourney.blogspot.com/2011/06/who-says-we-are-divided.html

    I think this post I made a few days back adds another point of view to this.

    Thanks!

  8. 6-28-2011

    Alan,

    I’m too long in the tooth to offer any formulas or easy answers to the problem. I’m not being cynical when I say that apart from taking notice of what has already been stated as Biblical, our efforts will usually fail.

    I have seen concerted prayer by a dedicated few, see a very divisive person turned around in personality and attitude, as they very deliberately confronted him, whenever the opportunity arose, with love.

    I’ve also seen the very opposite and a church destroyed by such a person, regardless of the sincere best efforts of Biblicaly minded brethren.

  9. 6-28-2011

    Jon,

    Sure, you can do more than one post. I actually meant to ask you if you wanted to include that post, and I forgot. I’ll put your post at #10, and I’ll ask Fred to post as #11.

    Aussie John,

    It seems that rules and regulations don’t always work in divisive situations.

    Fred,

    Would you please publish your new post as #11 in the chain blog? That way, Jon won’t have to divide from us… :)

    -Alan

  10. 6-28-2011

    Sorry Fred fighting over the #10. Let me know if there are some reconciliation steps I could do to help.

  11. 6-28-2011

    Jon, no problem. My computer skills allowed me to change tenth to eleventh on my post. :) My post is at: http://fredshope.blogspot.com/2011/06/disunity-and-mind-of-christ.html

  12. 6-29-2011

    Thank you both for “getting along”! :)

    -Alan

  13. 6-29-2011

    Alan,

    I agree that Scripture says to separate from other believers over certain issues, but what does it mean to “separate”? I think that “church” looks so different today than what it did then, separation doesn’t mean the same thing.

    Let me approach this another way. In most churches today, the people who attend the same church every week are more “separated” from each other than most believers in any early church ever were.

    I remember in one church I pastored, two ladies were fighting, and neither one wanted to leave the church, and when we were unable to bring peace between them, we all agreed to just have them sit on opposite ends of the church. Not a great solution, and it did involve “separation” but they didn’t leave the “church.”

  14. 6-29-2011

    I am starting a new blog, and my first entry is about divisiveness, but i do not think it fits in the chain. Hoave a look anyway, I would love your comments.

    http://abnormalreaction.wordpress.com/

  15. 6-29-2011

    Jeremy,

    To be honest, I would call your example a case of separation. When I say “separation” about talking about breaking fellowship. The two ladies were not in fellowship with one another.

    Swanny,

    Thanks for telling me about your blog! I’ll definitely watch it closely!

    -Alan

  16. 6-29-2011

    Thanks

    My first time blogging.. we will see how it goes

  17. 6-30-2011

    I’ve written the next chain (#12), called “We Are United in our Division” at http://www.andywittonline.com/?p=890

    Andy

  18. 6-30-2011

    Swanny,

    I’m sure it will be patient. Be patient with yourself and your readers. It will take you and them a while to figure out your blogging/commenting style, frequency, etc.

    Andy,

    Awesome! I’ll add it to the list and take a look at your post.

    -Alan

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