Ask RC: Why do Christians disagree?
We, after all, affirm the same book. We, after all, are indwelt by the same Spirit. We, after all, are being remade into the same image. So why is it that we can’t seem to agree?
The short answer is sin. Though our sins are forgiven, though sin no longer has dominion over us, though sin is daily being mortified in us, it yet remains, and has power. Which leads us to disagreements, to failures to submit to the Word of God in all that it teaches. How does sin lead us to disagree? Here are a few ways.
Self-interest leads us into error.
We tend to choose our convictions, not on the basis of arguments in their favor, but rather based on what the convictions will do for us. This could be something as crass as, “If I embrace the view that Christians should not teach in secular grade schools I would have to quit my job” to something far more subtle, “If I reject dispensational eschatology I won’t get invited to speak at eschatology conferences.”
Pride leads us into error.
We tend to choose our convictions based on how they make us feel about ourselves. First, if I have to change my mind about x, that means I was once wrong about x. Second, if I have to change my mind about x right after you debated with me on the subject, it means I lost a debate. Here too, however, we face more subtle temptations. Pride may lead me to think, hopefully subconsciously, “If I embrace a young earth view no one will take me seriously as a scholar.” (To be fair, it can also work the other way, “If I don’t stick to a young earth view all my friends will think me a compromiser and a denier of the Bible.”)
Sloth leads us into error.
We tend to choose our convictions the same way water chooses its path- we go where there is the least resistance. More often than not it is easier to keep our old convictions than to change them. Not studying an issue is easier than studying an issue. Being less than deliberate takes less effort than being deliberate.
Sloppy thinking leads us into error.
This is still the fruit of sin. Since the fall our minds have been fallen as well. We tend toward error simply because we are fallen. In the same way our bodies stumble, sometimes our minds stumble. In the same way we make mistakes doing simple math, something we make mistakes in simple logic.
Misplaced loyalty can lead us into error.
Here we believe what we believe because we love whom we love. We fear disappointing family, friends, previous teachers if we depart from what they taught us. Loyalty, all things being equal, is a good thing. But not so much when it leads us to believe bad things.
We do err, and we will err. We would, if we could, of course, jettison all the errors that plague us. Trouble is, to our fallen minds the errors we believe look to us much like the truths that we believe. We do indeed have a perfect book. We are indeed indwelt by a perfect Spirit. We are indeed being remade into a perfect image. Which gives us cause to celebrate and give thanks. While we do disagree, what we share in common in the body is greater than what divides us. May we all pray to the Spirit that we would better believe the Word that we would better reflect the Son.
Ask R.C. September 3, 2013