The Great Divide, Part 3

In the first two posts of this series, the Great Divide, we have seen that there never was a divide between God the Father and God the Son, and neither was there ever a divide between God and His children. The distance between Jesus and His Father on the cross was felt but not actual. This same truth applies to God and us, even when we are in our most sinful state. According to the Bible, the experienced divide between God and humanity is a wall created by our shame but is not an actual spiritual reality. In this final post, we come to a divide that actually does exist and one that I believe is most detrimental to the mission and command of Jesus. That division, willingly embraced and propagated by Christians, is one in which man's doctrine becomes a justification for severing relationships within the Body of Christ.

Whether you are aware or not, my last two posts pitted some tried and true church doctrines against other church doctrines and assumed beliefs by using the narrative of Scripture. While the Bible is the inspired Word of God that, we believe at RCC, is our final authority, doctrine is nothing more than man's attempt to understand and systematize core understandings of Scripture. Because man is fallible, some of these doctrines are correct while others are not. Some of man's devised doctrines are inspired and have greatly illuminated our understanding of God's nature through the breadth and width of Scripture. Other doctrines ignore much of Scripture to bolster a faulty foundation. The origins of such flawed doctrines were typically a reaction against or for some experience or cause that distinguished one group over another or distinguished the church from historical events.

Sadly, many such doctrines have done great spiritual harm to Christians for centuries. Instead of sound doctrine leading us to Scripture and thus finding God more fully, we have turned it around so that Scripture leads us to right doctrine, sacrificing God for intellectual arguments. Please hear me, brothers and sisters, not only is it not a sin to question blindly accepted doctrines; it is the duty of any serious student of the Bible. Using the Bible itself, we must be willing to take hard looks at man's doctrines no matter how their yeast has worked through the dough of our traditions and accepted conclusions.

One of the greatest tragedies of our Christian history that continues today is the divisions that splinter the relational fabric of Christ's Body on the earth, all because we chose the doctrine of man over the command of Christ. There was only one command of Christ, and that is to love (John 15:9-17). Paul said we could argue doctrine with all the knowledge and eloquence in the world, but not having love proves we have nothing of eternal value (1 Co 13:2-3). He writes that we should not allow Biblical arguments to divide relationships and that such people who do so are warped and self-condemned (Titus 3:9-11). He notes that knowledge is temporal and will pass away ( 1 Co 13:9) and that far more significant than knowledge is love, writing, "now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known. And now these three remain: faith, hope, and love. But the greatest of these is love." (1 Co 13:12-13) John writes that we prove we know God, or not, by how we love others and that it is within the manner that we love one another that we make God known to the world ( 1 John 4:7-12). Similarly, Jesus said people would know we belong to Him and that we follow Him by the way we demonstrate our love for one another (John 13:34-35). His priestly prayer before being taken for crucifixion was that we, within our community, would practice a oneness that represented the oneness of the Trinity and that we would live this out an unshakable unity (John 17:22-23).

It is ironic how, in an effort to stay faithful to the Bible, Christians sacrifice scripture for doctrine. We have willingly allowed the dogma of man to replace the heart of Jesus. In an effort to protect what we consider correct doctrine we embrace the sin of division and walk away from the oneness Jesus taught, prayed for, and for which He died.

 Yes, there are essential understandings of Scripture around which a community of faith is formed. For our Reading City Church community, these are posted HERE. As stated on that page, "doctrines and teachings beyond what is listed are approached with opened hands and lose grips among our community. At RCC, we believe this approach allows for vibrant discussions and greater spiritual growth." We are discovering that our oneness in Christ, through the practice of His love, does not disappear over disagreements. On the contrary, our love and faith are only deepened through such tensions. No one person or group has the totality of correct Biblical understanding. The Church is designed to be a diverse yet interdependent community that honors Christ within each of us, that listens with humility, that is committed to learning and growing beyond our norms and knowledge, "until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ. Then we will no longer be children, tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine..." (Ephesians 4:13-14)

May our love dissolve the dividing walls of man's doctrine to live out the heart of the One we follow and the actual teaching of Scripture.
-Vincent Donnachie, Pastor

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