Chris Watson Lee wants to help us talk about our disagreements over ‘secondary issues.’ The nature of the disagreement should affect the way in which we deal with it. Christians have disagreed with one another since the earliest days of the church (Philippians 1:27); this side of eternity, there are always going to be disagreements and differences. But how should we engage with theological differences? In the words of a Reformed scholastic like Francis Turretin, “we must distinguish” between different kinds of disagreement. The nature of the disagreement will (or at least should) affect the way in which we deal with it. This is not a new insight: you might be familiar with the old maxim, “In essentials, unity; in non-essentials, liberty; in all things, charity.” It reminds us that before rushing in to debate our disagreements, we must check ourselves – aiming for a humble attitude, dependence on the Lord, and love for others (Ephesians 4:1-16) Distinguishing Disagreements We
I highly recommend this message from Andy Naselli. Andy Naselli: “How to Disagree with Other Christians about Disputable Matters” – That’s the title of a sermon I preached on Sunday on Romans 14:1–15:7. I open by explaining triage in order to introduce the idea of theological triage. We must distinguish between first-level, second-level, and third-level issues. I suggest about 75 disputable matters (grouped into 17 rough categories) that can be extremely divisive in some churches. I present 12 principles from Rom 14:1–15:7 about how to disagree with other Christians. I borrow these from a forthcoming commentary on Romans that veteran missionary J. D. Crowley wrote for people in Cambodia: Welcome those who disagree with you (Rom 14:1–2). Those who have freedom must not look down on those who are strict (Rom 14:3–4). Those who are strict must not be judgmental towards those who have freedom (Rom 14:3–4). Each believer must be fully convinced of their position in their own conscience (Rom 14:5). Everything you do, or refrain from doing, must be for God’s glory (Rom 14:6–9).
From the Crossway blog: The ability to discern the relative importance of theological issues is vital to the health and unity of the church. There are four categories of importance into which theological issues can fall: Absolutes: Define the core beliefs of Christian faith. Convictions: While not core beliefs, these may have significant impact on the health and effectiveness of the church. Opinions: Views or personal judgments generally not worth dividing over. Questions: Currently unsettled issues. The category into which each theological issue falls should be examined in light of eight different considerations. Biblical clarity Relevance to the character of God Relevance to the essence of the gospel Biblical frequency and significance (how often in Scripture it is taught, and what weight Scripture places upon it) Effects on other doctrines Consensus among Christians (past and present) Effect on personal and church life Current cultural pressure to deny a teaching of Scripture All of these categories should be evaluated collectively when