Saturday, February 18, 2012

Elephant Rooms and Bones to Pick

I love it.
But I don't love it because I think it's fun to disagree.
I love it because I love Truth.

It was after a debate with my husband that I had a major paradigm shift in my theology.
And suddenly, the whole Bible made so much more sense
And it read with much more clarity.
I finally understood who God really is
And who I am in Him.
Yes, real debate yields real fruit
Because it uncovers real Truth.

Some believers are afraid of debate.
I don't think they'll say that. They'll couch their objections in Christian terms.
They'll say it's unsafe...
Or dangerous for personal relationships...
But I think that's sad.

I think it's sad that people of the Book are afraid to pursue Truth relentlessly.

And somewhere during a debate, someone starts to lament the lack of Unity.
Okay, I admit it.
I can be too quick to fight for Truth
and botch Unity.
And when Unity and Truth seem to be at odds...
I admit that I tend to err on the side of Truth.
Not that what I have to say is the Truth.
But I'm typically not afraid of disagreement.
I'm more afraid of error.

Just this past week, if you were paying attention, you would have observed the festooch over Elephant Room Two (ER2), which is the second gathering of diverse Christian brothers to discuss their differences in a healthy and public sort of way....

...until someone wanted to discuss differences in a healthy and public sort of way.

When Dr. Voddie Bauchum wanted a showdown on the Trinity, he found himself on a plane back home before the event even began. I always appreciate men who cannot be swayed by 'civility.' In contrast, I am deeply disappointed by others who have self-righteously declared that they are for unity--even if it means agreeing to disagree on the Trinity.

The Trinity.

Uh, believers don't agree to disagree on the Trinity.

There are important doctrines.
And, yes, much to our chagrin, there are times to stand for Truth and eschew Unity.

Pastor Thabiti Anyabwile observed about ER2:
We were given a view of our own slippery and sometimes lazy grasp of the Trinity and other doctrinal issues of importance. Let's admit there's truth beyond our knowledge here. But let's also admit that too many of us have not sought to grasp what may be known.
Sounds like Truth trumping Unity to me...
"Too many of us have not sought to grasp what may be known."
Right on, Brother.

Kevin DeYoung weighed in like this:
We need a more thoughtful theology of criticism... Let's avoid facile condemnations of all criticism, realizing that the statement itself is a criticism and the Bible is full of heroes who had lots of bones to pick.
The Church in general--and I specifically--need to grapple with when to stand for Truth and when to bow to Unity.
My experience tells me that it depends on the doctrine.

There are the first-tier doctrines (like original sin and penal substitution) that are so integral to the definition of our faith and the Truth of the Gospel that they are non-negotiable.
I would never choose Unity over Truth at this level.

There are third-tier doctrines (like baptism or dispensationalism or charismatic gifts). Widely diverse positions are held by believers on both sides of these doctrines and lots of others. But they don't change the Truth of the Gospel. I think these are the doctrines that require a Romans 14 behavior of us. They require us to live with each other in an understanding way.
So I have to remind myself at this level to choose Unity.

But somewhere in the gray between "always choose Truth" and "always choose Unity" I find a second tier of doctrines where the choice is not so easy. These doctrines I would call 'worldview-ish' because they are so foundational that they influence how I read the Scriptures from Genesis to Revelation. They are the pre-suppositional glasses I put on every time I pick up the Word.

I think those worldview-ish doctrines include:
Calvinism vs. Arminianism
Egalitarianism vs. Complementarianism
Sufficiency of Scripture vs. Scripture-plus-tradition vs. Scripture-plus-prophecy

This is the level where I have to proceed with great caution regarding Truth vs. Unity.
They're not deal-breakers when it comes to friendship, certainly not.
But they are serious issues.
And while I won't go twelve rounds with you on a third-tier doctrine,
I just might over a second-tier one.

Truth is knowable!
It is only our post-modern age that tells us it isn't.
All men have general revelation through creation and conscience.
And all believers have the special revelation of Christ and His Word.
Yes, indeed, Truth is knowable.
And believers should pursue it relentlessly.

To be sure, not every hill is worth fighting over, but...
There are some we should be willing to defend.
There are some we should be willing to to take.

And there are some we should be willing to die on.


  1. Thank you for this post. My girlfriend and I are currently going through this issue with the second tier doctrine of women in ministry. I am a complementarian and she is an egalitarian. We are trying to figure out how to approach this and your post was very helpful in determining if Truth or Unity is the more important factor here.

    1. How encouraging! I'm glad it helped.