CultureWatch

Bill Muehlenberg's commentary on issues of the day...

This Sure Will Get You Into Trouble

Nov 11, 2016

I have often said that if you want to live a quiet and peaceful life, there is a sure-fire recipe for this: simply say nothing, do nothing, and seek to be nothing. Do not comment on any controversial issues of the day; do not get involved in any hot potato debates; and do not dare to have a strong opinion on anything.

That way you will have a relatively easy run through life. Of course if you are a believer who thinks and acts this way, then you have declared yourself to be disloyal to your Lord and your calling. Believers are commanded to be truth bearers and to be salt and light.

controversy-1Of necessity that will mean that you will have to be involved in the hot topics of the day. A Christian faith that says nothing about the issues of the day and cares nothing about the world around it is not a genuine Christian faith. Too many believers are craven compromisers who will never open their mouths for Christ and the Kingdom. That is completely unacceptable.

But here I want to talk about various controversial issues which can also cause all sorts of division and animosity, but are – in my books – actually secondary issues. They are important but they are not absolutely crucial issues. They do not impact on one’s salvation for example.

I have been involved in dozens of bruising battles over some of these matters. Some people treat these issues as the most important thing there is, and if you dare to take a different position on them, you will be treated like the Antichrist, if not worse!

There are many of these issues that are such hot potato topics for believers that no matter what side you are on, you are guaranteed to get blasted and hated on by some folks. And I speak from experience here! This has happened to me far too often regrettably. It has not been pleasant.

Let me offer just a short list of such matters. Many more could be added to this list, but these will suffice to prove my point: daring to publically discuss some of these things will more than likely get you into big trouble!

-Should there be women leaders? (in church and at home)?
-Should Christians drink alcohol?
-Should Christians celebrate Christmas?
-Should Christians celebrate Easter?
-Should Christians get tattoos?
-Should Christians support the death penalty?
-Should Christians own firearms?
-Are the charismatic gifts for today?
-Is the rapture theory biblical?
-Is the premillennial view the only one a believer can hold to?
-Is the KJV the only Bible we should use?

As mentioned, these are for the most part all secondary issues (and for even saying this I will be ruffling some feathers). That is, you will not go to hell if you have a tattoo or drink a beer or celebrate Christmas. You will not be eternally damned if you believe in the rapture or don’t believe in the rapture.

You will not be barred from entry to heaven if you happen to be an amillennialist, a postmillennialist or a premillennialist. You will not be rubbed out of the Book of Life if you say “Happy Easter”. You will not be consigned to eternal flames if you favour the death penalty.

These are basically areas where Christians can and do disagree, and we should be willing to cut each other a bit of slack here. These are matters where we should have some freedom to disagree on. Conformity of belief on these sorts of matters is not biblically required.

Sure, most of these matters are important indeed, and we can see why people get so passionate in their stance on these things. But we should put our real efforts and willingness to go to battle into the primary doctrinal issues. For example, if someone claims to be a Christian yet denies the deity of Christ, then that is a very serious matter indeed.

That is an issue we must be willing to go to the wall over. That is a fundamental teaching which we must not compromise on or pretend it is just a give or take issue. There are of course other vital biblical truths that Christians must insist upon and fully defend.

The triune nature of the Godhead would be another. The fact that the Bible is the authoritative and unique word of God is also a basic fundamental truth to be championed. That salvation is based on the substitutionary work of Christ at Calvary alone would be another one.

Of course even here there are some differences in how we approach these issues. Does belief in an authoritative Scripture also demand a belief in inerrancy? I think it does but I realise some believers take a somewhat different stance on this and related issues.

So while we are to affirm and defend basic biblical fundamentals, there is still room for humility and grace as we seek to fine tune these teachings. So care is needed, both in terms of deciding which issues of doctrine and practice are primary, and which are secondary, and in getting the balance right in speaking the truth in love. That is, we must be gracious while we defend orthodox Christian beliefs.

And part of that means being willing to ease up on the heresy hunting that so often occurs here. Far too often someone who holds to a differing perspective on a matter, especially a secondary issue, is regarded as anathema and rebuked as a heretic.

This happens far too often and has got to stop. I have written about this before and encourage you to have a read: billmuehlenberg.com/2014/04/09/on-heresy-hunters/

As I wrote there:

Christian fellowship and unity must be promoted where possible, and learning to get along with those who do not fully see eye to eye with you is a mark of Christian maturity and wisdom. Wanting to pick a fight with anyone over anything and everything is not.
And as is often the case, there is a fine line running between arrogant, proud pugilists who seek out enemies everywhere, and those who will staunchly stand for biblical truth, but will do so in love, recognising that secondary issues can be treated much more lightly.
So I plea to all the heresy hunters out there – and undoubtedly some folks will think that I am one – to be prayerful, careful and humble as you stand for truth. Staying on your knees is the very best place to be fighting for biblical and theological orthodoxy.

I realise that even what I have suggested is a secondary issue will enrage some believers who will call me out as a heretic for daring to say their pet belief or cause is not a primary truth for all people for all times and for all places! You just can’t win in other words with some folks.

But hopefully most Christians will be humble enough and gracious enough to realise there are some things we can legitimately disagree on without fear of being cast into outer darkness if we have an opposing point of view. Biblical unity is important. We do not compromise on core truths, but we show grace when we can in fact have a range of views.

As I said, if you want to live a peaceful and very easy-going life, then do not have an opinion on anything. Or if you do, just do not share them in public! Just keep it all to yourself. But truth matters, and important truths deserve to be earnestly contended for, privately and publically.

But there are many truths which are of lesser importance in terms of one’s eternal destiny and the like. So please pray for grace and wisdom as we discern the primary from the secondary, and as we learn how to interact with those who differ with us. Our Christian witness is really at stake here.

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10 Responses to This Sure Will Get You Into Trouble

  • One of my favorite bible teachers [David Pawson] does something I appreciate a-lot. He will often explain in relatively impartial way, the main doctrinal schools of thought on a subject, before going on to explain which view he has concluded is correct and why. This is in stark contrast to so many preachers and teachers who present their view in a ‘just so’ manner, without even bothering to inform the listener, there are other mainstream views out there. It took me some time to accept this idea, but I do now think that there are shades of dogma and cultism in mainstream protestant evangelical denominations and as you also seem to be saying Bill, woe to the person who dare stand up and say “well actually i disagree, please allow me to explain what I understand and why”.

  • Thanks Robert. Yes I very much like Pawson as well.

  • Thank you Bill,

    Very wise words indeed, I have been directly encouraged to keep a godly attitude toward those who lead, pray much for the church and “maintain a gentle and quiet spirit, which is of great worth in God’s sight” (1 Peter 3:4). Church life will not always be as we like, but it’s the Lord’s church and he watches over it.

    In the matter of Godly counsel to brothers and sisters experiencing a bout of depression, I stand by my conviction of the best way to treat a sufferer, being biblical/Christian counseling that addresses unrest in the soul which non Christian/un-biblical counseling can and does not. Jesus experience every affliction common to man so by the grace of God his holy word contains answers in any and every matter in life. In this case Paul’s words to the Philippians in 4:10-13 ESV 10 “I rejoiced in the Lord greatly that now at length you have revived your concern for me. You were indeed concerned for me, but you had no opportunity. 11 Not that I am speaking of being in need, for I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content. 12 I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need. 13 I can do all things through him who strengthens me.” These have been very important and encouraging words to me for one especially as Paul speaks of us separating ourselves from our circumstances as the secret to being content.

    In the same passage, the apostle Paul teaches us 6 “…do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. 7 And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” Philippians 4:6, 7, ESV which is a helpful reminder in such troubling circumstances, not just helpful words but a command of God, like every other word in the canon of Scripture. We need more godly men and women in this day and age especially who can handle and use God’s word correctly to benefit the folk in our community, particularly since many of the services priests and church leaders/Pastors used to administer to their flock with godly precision and still have a responsibility for. This is especially so as many of us are being diagnosed with depression and schizophrenia in the church and the wider community more often and Christ Jesus appears to have less of a place in our homes and the lives of our wider families members also sadly some churches. Your words I have hidden in my heart.”

    4 “Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. 5 You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might. 6 And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart. 7 You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise. 8 You shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes. 9 You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates…” Deuteronomy 6:4-9 ESV Another command from our heavenly Father.

    Thank you again Bill you are a very mindful person with loving concern for all of God’s children, may he bless you richly indeed, blessings and love from yours in Christ, Sandra Shalom

  • We may not agree on every teaching of other churches but we do not hold them against one another, after all we may be wrong and they may have the right ideas or the same way others may be wrong and we may be right. God says in do not be conceited in Romans eg. “Marks of the True Christian”

    9 “Let love be genuine. Abhor what is evil; hold fast to what is good. 10 Love one another with brotherly affection. Outdo one another in showing honor. 11 Do not be slothful in zeal, be fervent in spirit,[g] serve the Lord. 12 Rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer. 13 Contribute to the needs of the saints and seek to show hospitality.

    14 Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse them. 15 Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep. 16 Live in harmony with one another. Do not be haughty, but associate with the lowly. Never be wise in your own sight. 17 Repay no one evil for evil, but give thought to do what is honorable in the sight of all. 18 If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all. 19 Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave it to the wrath of God, for it is written, “Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.” 20 To the contrary, “if your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink; for by so doing you will heap burning coals on his head.” 21 Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.” Romans 12:9-21 ESV (Because it is close to the Greek original)

  • “When you have reached your own room, be kind to those who have chosen different doors and to those who are still in the hall. If they are wrong they need your prayers all the more; and if they are your enemies, then you are under orders to pray for them.” – Lewis

  • There is an old joke that illustrates this:
    “What is the difference between Baptists and Church of Christ”? (Australian context)
    Answer; The Baptists think that the C of C believe in baptismal regeneration, and the C of C think that the Baptists believe in baptismal regeneration.

  • “In the essentials, unity. In the non-essentials, liberty. In all things, charity”. Augustine.

    Mick Koster

  • It’s so sad, when Christians turn on fellow Christians without praying first + awaiting God’s divine Wisdom.
    The Result: hurtful, damaging + unfortunately, contagious responses from many others.
    As if we have not enough enemies already… 😉
    However, when named, maimed + shamed for Christ by others supposedly in Christ, I feel blessed + can pray for the misguided by THEIR name (after the initial bewilderment + hurt wears off).

    Bill – God’s work is ALIVE through this astounding + enlightening Scripturally based Ministry of our times.
    And, if YOU are not being persecuted, from others who profess faith in Our Lord + Saviour/or the lost you know you have to pick your game 🙂

  • Well said, yet again, Bill. I couldn’t agree more.

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