Strength in diversity

At my church we’re currently hosting a cricket tournament.

Basically, a few friends were bored in the wet and cold winter months, and decided to convert the church hall (which was already carpeted) into an indoor cricket facility. One thing led to another, and suddenly we were hosting a tournament with 10 teams from all over the city and had sparked a community of over 100 people (and probably a dozen nationalities) who get together up to three times a week to hang out and play some friendly (but very competitive) cricket.

Which got me thinking about denominations.

See, although most of the matches take place on Wednesday and Thursday nights, we sometimes use Sunday as a make-up day. One of the other teams involved in the tournament is from another local church, and they are the only team which doesn’t play the Sunday games – because their pastor said they shouldn’t. On the other hand, my church is actively running a competition on Sundays.

And that is why I love the diversity of denominations in the Church.

.

.

The defining criterion for inclusion into the Church is pretty simple: if you affirm the three ecumenical creeds, you’re a Christian church. This benchmark for inclusion does two important things:

Firstly, the creeds describe the primary doctrines which define Christianity. They set the minimum requirement: if you are not willing to sign on to everything in the creeds, you’re not a Christian church.

Secondly, the creeds set the limits as to which doctrines may be considered primary. If it’s not in the creeds, it does not affect inclusion into the Church.

This is incredibly important.

The primary articles of faith give us a common understanding on which to base our discussion. If I accept the divinity of Jesus and you insist that he was merely human, we are starting from fundamentally different points, and until that division is reconciled we can go no further.

But having accepted the primary articles, the Church can tolerate disagreement on any other issues. There is space within it to discuss, to debate, and even to diverge. We don’t need to have common consensus on everything, and Christians do not need to be carbon copies.

Because we all accept the primary doctrines as a common foundation, there is diversity without division.

.

Infant baptism or adult?

We can agree to disagree.

Purgatory, annihilationism or universal reconciliation?

We can agree to disagree.

Transubstantiation or symbolic fellowship?

We can agree to disagree.

Young-Earth creationism, guided or Darwinian evolution?

We can agree to disagree.

.

.

I’ve prayed in ancient cathedrals, and had communion on top of a mountain.

I’ve had attended church services with incense and Latin liturgies, and also services consisting entirely of freestyle drumming.

I’ve been to churches where they use grape juice for the Eucharist, and churches where they’ll buy you a beer after the service.

I’ve experienced the inspiring beauty of monastic Taizé singing, and I’ve worshipped with electric guitars.

.

Within the sprawling, expansive, vibrant and all-embracing Church, there is space for the traditionalist and the radical, for the poet and the scientist, for the broken and the lost.

There is space for me.

.

—————————————

Note:

Speaking of diversity, several bloggers have banded together to create Christian Diversity, a new project to promote inter-denominational dialogue and fellowship. On that site, writers are collaborating to explore different Christian perspectives on a range of theological issues. Check it out!

—————————————

Related posts:

Anne Rice and hypocrisy in the Church

Serious, not fanatical

Religion, sex and truth claims

.

Advertisements

10 thoughts on “Strength in diversity

  1. Sentinel,

    You’ve really captured the essence of what my vision is for “Christian Diversity”. Would you mind reposting this on that site too? I think it would be a good way to further explain what we’re all about.

  2. Pingback: Strength in diversity « Christian Diversity–Mere Christians

  3. Pingback: There’s no “I” in “Atheism” « Spiritual Meanderings

  4. Kind of nice to see religious folk just agreeing to disagree, as opposed to splinting hairs over minor doctrinal points. Well done!

  5. You are vitally correct on both sides of this issue (IMHO). There are those dogmas (if I may be so brash as to use that term) which are so foundational that they must be held to. We cannot sacrifice orthodoxy on the altar of an insipid unity. However, we likewise cannot sacrifice unity for some un-biblical dogmatism. I think you have drawn the lines well. By the way, I wonder what cricket would look like in the church–but then I don’t know what it looks like outside the church.

  6. First off, I really enjoy your writing, but I do want to challenge some of thoughts shared in this post.

    It appears to me that some of your “agree to disagree” comparisons do more than overlook “minor doctrinal points” (jjflash comment). For instance, if we believe the Bible to be true, then we must hold fast to a Young Earth ideology. In regards to purgatory, the Bible clearly teaches two eternal destinations, Heaven and Hell. Pussy footing around so-called “minor doctrinal points” entices people to deny the importance of doctrinal standards based upon the infallible Word of God.

    • Thanks for the comments, Bryan, and I’m glad you’re enjoying the posts!

      With regards to your particular points, I do believe the Bible to be true, but I strongly disagree that it teaches a Young Earth ideology. I mention this because it’s a handy example of what I’m talking about in this post: I hold the Bible as having absolute authority, and so does a Young Earther (and I’m assuming that you do too, although I may be wrong). This is the primary doctrinal point. My reading of the Bible teaches nothing about a 6000-year-old Earth; the Young-Earther does interpret the text that way. We both agree on the primary point, though: that we should accept as truth what is revealed to us in Scripture. And that’s really the point I’m making here – not that the discussions are unimportant, but that they are not foundational.

      Likewise, I’m not disputing the clear teaching about Heaven and Hell, I merely point out that there are several schools of thought when it comes to the details, and that generally those schools of thought are each basing their stance on their reading of Scripture. And that Christianity can accommodate discussion on these things without any hazard to the core teaching of the Gospel.

  7. Concerning the Young Earth debate, here’s my thought process. According to the Bible, sin and death entered the world as a result of mankind’s sin. If we hold to a millions or billions of years philosophy, then millions or billions of years of death and disease transpired before sin. How do you rectify this issue? By the way, thanks for responding.

    • Ah, I see where you’re coming from. Interesting perspective – thanks for explaining your thinking.

      I think we need to be careful about our reading of ‘death entering the world through mankind’s sin’. What exact kind of “death” are we talking about? In Genesis 2, Adam is told about the tree, “when you eat from it you will certainly die.” But he didn’t die physically when he ate from it – in fact he lived several hundred more years according to the genealogy (at the very least, he lived long enough to have several children).

      His spiritual separation from God happened right when he first sinned, though. Is that the death that is being referred to? After the atoning sacrifice of Jesus, people still die physically, but we can be reconciled spiritually to God. Is this the death that was overcome?

      I’m not necessarily claiming that this is the best possible reading of the text, but I do think that the issue is less cut and dried than it may seem.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s