I’m going to do my best to not make this a personal rant posting. It could easily turn into a Corby-gripe-fest. But I don’t want to do that. And yet there are some things I have to say and there are those of my pastoral bretheren (even CC pastors) who won’t find it pretty. But I gotta say em.
Standing up for truth, standing up for Biblical doctrine does not equal divisiveness. It may result in division and that is sad. But that doesn’t mean that we stop standing up for truth and doctrine. The question then becomes, “Which doctrines are important?” Answer (ala Dwight): All of them. Why? Because what we believe is the basis for what we do and, more importantly, why we do it (or don’t).
We are coming up to the end of Acts 18 and I’m going to include the first part of Acts 19 in the study this weekend. They are related events and I think very significant events in light of what I see happening in some of the younger generation of CC pastors. Actually, it applies on a couple of different levels, but I’ll try to stick to the main thread of the thought.
The following is a statement that has been around CC probably from the beginning. Many CCs have this on their website and in their weekly bulletins.
Calvary Chapel is not a denomination. We are not opposed to denominations as such, only their over-emphasis of doctrinal differences that have led to division in the Body of Christ. We believe that the only true basis of Christian fellowship is His (agape) love, which is greater than any differences we possess.
I’ll just say it; I don’t think this works anymore. (gasp!) Now hang on, let me qualify it. We have to consider the times and the culture, both inside and outside the church, when this statement was made. The church, Christianity in America, was on life support. It was being kept alive by artificial means, namely programs and ear-tickling (not much has changed). For the most part, church was either fake, dead, condemnatory, or all of the above. Pastor Chuck was about the love. He is still about the love. That’s as it should be for all of us. However, the differences that now threaten to divide us are beyond simple opinions about doctrine. They call into question everything. It is no longer enough to say that we love Jesus and can’t we all just get along, because some who claim to love Jesus also ignore or denounce His own teachings. John would say of such a one, “He is a liar and the truth is not in him.” How divisive!
“We believe that the only true basis of Christian fellowship is His (agape) love, which is greater than any differences we possess.” It is this statement that causes me the most concern, particularly the “any differences we poses” part. Let’s start with someone who calls themselves a Christian, one of Christ’s, one who believes in Jesus for salvation. I will set aside for the moment that there are all kinds of ways people today use those terms and they don’t mean what the Bible means by them, therefore they really aren’t Christians. But, since we can’t discern someone else’s salvation or heart, let’s give them the benefit of the doubt for the moment. Today, Christians are believing and being taught that the Bible isn’t the infallible, inerrant word of God as the Bible claims and as God Himself says. Can we have true fellowship in that? I don’t think so. Today, Pastors/Reverends/Ministers/Bishops/Whatevers are teaching and believing and practicing things (or at the very least are parts of denominations that teach/believe/practice things) that are totally and plainly contrary to the teaching of God’s word. Some of these are huge things, some not so much, but then sin isn’t graded on a scale. Can we have true fellowship in that? I don’t think so. Today, Christians are believing and being taught that Jesus’ substitutionary death on the cross is an offensive idea, that sin is an outdated concept, that all truth is God’s truth wherever you find it (Hinduism, Buddhism, Islam, Oprah, doesn’t matter). Can we have true Christian fellowship with people who claim to be in Jesus’ agape love and have those kinds of differences? I don’t think so.
Why not? Because they are self-contradicting. They refute and ignore the very things they claim to believe or promote. They are wrong and incorrect. This isn’t nit-picking. This isn’t biting and devouring like Paul talks about in Galatians. This has everything to do with the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth. And yet, when someone tries to bring correction, even if it’s done in a loving, gentle, and patient way, they are labeled as narrow minded and having no room for fellowship with the diversity in the Body of Christ. How can one have fellowship with cancer?
What do Acts 18-19 have to do with any of this? Meet Apollos. He knew the baptism of John. He rightly taught the ways of Lord and called people to repentance. I’m sure we would call him a brother in the Lord and desire fellowship with him. And yet, Aquilla and Priscilla saw something wrong, something missing. They then taught him the way of the Lord more accurately. What? How divisive! How arrogant! He was missing some of the truth. Fortunately, Apollos was humble enough to take the correction. Today, whole denominations and theological constructs are based on being where Apollos was, and they do so on purpose in the name of being more Biblically accurate.
But wait, there’s more! In Acts 19 Paul meets some disciples, some believers, some Christians, who also only knew John’s baptism of repentance. (Note that this isn’t an issue of salvation. This is in contrast to Jesus’ baptism with the Holy Spirit. See Acts 1:4-8) What? You mean Paul made a big deal about being baptized/filled with the Spirit? Isn’t that a side issue that we need not divide over? Isn’t that a non-essential? Apparently it isn’t. Apparently Paul thought it was a big enough of a deal to take them aside and teach them about it, to even lay hands on them and pray for them to receive the Spirit. How divisive! How arrogant! How right on. If a “side issue” such as this was so important, how important is the rest? It really calls into question what a “side issue” is anyway.
I think Paul would have been labeled as divisive by many today, along with Aquilla and Priscilla. I think they might have been labeled as witch hunting discernment ministries. Is unity important? Absolutely. I am in no way advocating breaking up the body of Christ for the sake of being “right.” I am saying that we should stay true to the Truth. The problem is that the lines of truth are becoming eroded and those who try to redraw them are labeled as divisive. (Here’s your sign.) And it’s just going to get tougher. So call me divisive. It’s ok. I’m in good company. Paul, John, Jesus, Larry Norman, it’s all good. People need truth. People need certainty. People need absolutes. People need the truth, the whole, complete, nothing missing or optional, truth.
There. Rant over. Pardon my moment of intensity. We now return you to the normally scheduled intravertedness.