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Fellowshipping with Different Theologies

Dear Jim,

What is a godly attitude to have towards different theologies [Reformed, Baptist, Free Church, etc]? My church is being torn up by doctrinal differences. Several families have left so far; once they start listening to the other doctrine, they feel they can no longer fellowship with us. Our pastor believes the teaching they are getting is divisive, because these families are going to another church now. I have read the books they are reading; the sermons and teaching are excellent.

N

Dear N,

First, the answer is different if it is a question of the gospel, as in Galatians 2:11-14: “When Cephas came to Antioch, I opposed him to his face, because he stood condemned. For before certain men came from James, he used to eat with the Gentiles. But when they arrived, he began to draw back and separate himself from the Gentiles because he was afraid of those who belonged to the circumcision group. The other Jews joined him in his hypocrisy, so that by their hypocrisy even Barnabas was led astray. When I saw that they were not acting in line with the truth of the gospel, I said to Cephas in front of them all, ‘You are a Jew, yet you live like a Gentile and not like a Jew. How is it, then, that you force Gentiles to follow Jewish customs?’” If it is a question of the gospel, it must be addressed. I will assume there are no gospel issues involved in this.

Normally, it takes both sides of a problem to be divisive. If the “other” side is loving, the “divisive” side might not end up being divisive.

The real issue is not what your attitude should be towards Reformed theology or Baptist theology, etc., but about an attitude towards fellow believers. “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another” (John 13:34-35). Could an outsider, an unbeliever, know that the members of your church are followers of Jesus because of their love for each other? Or could the members of your church doubt that they themselves are Christians because they are not loving each other? The same goes for loving believers in other churches. Can the unbelievers tell that you are all Christians by how you love each other?

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