One of the great divisive elements in Christian theology centers around assumptions and choices. No matter which theological camp you claim, certain assumptions and choices go along with that position. The decisions you make and accept regarding those things will align your thinking and theology in a certain direction.
An example is needed. Consider the weighty issue of salvation, specifically whether one can lose salvation once attained. Christianity is divided into two camps here: those who believe “once saved, always saved” or the “security of the believer”, and those who believe salvation is tied to sanctification and requires us to “maintain” it somehow meaning we can lose it.
Both camps have scripture to support their position. Rather than presenting arguments for both sides, just spend some time googling the two views and you will find interesting arguments both directions. The point of this post is not to focus on that particular issue. The point here is that we all must choose one or the other. Either you choose to believe you cannot lose your salvation or you choose to believe you can lose your salvation.
Whatever you choose will determine how you interpret a whole bevy of scripture, and that’s the point. When we begin studying the Word, we are forced to make many decisions that naturally affect our interpretation and theology. Someone who believes one can lose their salvation will see Hebrews 6:4–6 completely differently than one who believes in the security of the believer.
Our failure is to respect the choices of others. Some are capable of this, but most are not. Rather than respecting the choices another believer makes, we attack them because their position differs from our own. We do this while operating in self-preservation mode. If I am a “security of the believer” person and a “lose your salvation” person is making a persuasive argument or leads me to a convicting scripture, I react negatively because I’m afraid of what might happen if they are right and I am wrong. So the only thing left to do is to start tossing around the word “heretic” to get free of it.
This is our issue. We are hammering away at one another all while making the (false) assumption that we are completely right. But, as my mother is fond of saying, “Here’s a hot news flash for ya…” no one, NO ONE, is completely right. Only one human in existence was ever completely right and He’s sitting at the right hand of the Father.
As we journey with Jesus through life, we must learn to recognize our choices and assumptions and be at peace with them. Please understand that I am not advocating for relativism. I do not believe that each person makes their own truth. There is a universal truth we can know, but that truth is unending. We will never, for all eternity, reach the end of it. When all the millennia of time have passed to the nth degree, we will know one half of one percent of all there is to know about God. This is how majestic He is.
So when we get on our theological high horse and begin browbeating others because they’ve made a different set of choices and assumptions from us, let us recall our own position. We must always remember that we hold only the smallest fraction of divine revelation and we need others to help us see other facets of God. Indeed, this was always His plan. Jesus established His body to work together to reveal Him.
You’ve made assumptions and choices and so have I. They are based on our current revelation of Christ. Let us walk in what we have received, but let us not be content to sit and wallow in our little droplet of truth when there is more to taste. We can challenge one another. We can sharpen one another. We do not have to agree on everything. It’s ok if we make different choices and assumptions.
There is a small body of truth that must be adhered to for us to even be Christian. We must be in submission to Jesus. We must honor Him as God and Lord of the universe. We must recognize the authority and power of the revealed Word in written form (the Bible). We must accept and believe the miraculous.
Beyond those core beliefs, little else is self-evident no matter how clever your reasoning. In the end, to reach almost every conclusion in Christianity required either an assumption or a choice. So let us respect one another. Calvinists and Charismatics can learn to get along. Episcopalians and Baptists can fellowship together. Mystics and Methodists can share ideas and pray for one another.
We can find unity if we are willing to accept one another even as we disagree. Perhaps if we spend some time considering another viewpoint we can at least understand how someone reached their conclusions, even if we cannot share their convictions. Because in the end, it is possible we may both be wrong about whatever we are so certain about now.
And when we cross over into the glorious riches of grace Jesus has prepared for us, do you really believe any of our thinking is going to be fully accurate? Is anyone actually arrogant enough to believe that, standing in the pure light of Christ’s truth and love you will be able to say, “See everyone, I was totally right about all my theology!” And would you even want to?
Make your choices. Live with your assumptions. But have the humility to know there will always be more you don’t know. Always something else you can learn. Always another facet of God you haven’t seen yet.
As the great Bard wrote in my favorite play, “There are more things in heaven and earth than are dreamt of in your philosophy.” That goes for all of us.