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Culture War In The Church?

August 10, 2012

It seems that the culture war which has been going on in society for a generation is finally coming to a head in church. While it is going on to various degrees in many denominations, it seems to just be reaching critical mass in Adventist Christianity now. Quite frankly I am concerned about this, as a pacifist I don’t like war. Even though this will hopefully never escalate to the point of physical violence, a war of words and a clash of values can do as much harm to the life and health of the church as any physical war can have to a country. At the present it seems that 3 issues are defining the conflict of cultures in our church; woman’s ordination, homosexuality, and the teaching of evolution. While I believe that there are sincere people on both sides I think it is important to remember that above all else Jesus calls us to love one another, and I fear that we are reaching a point where the polarization is so severe that we are at risk of losing that love.

On the issues I am squarely on the progressive side of all 3. I do not agree that the Bible makes a clear case for a male only clergy, I think it is far more important for us to be loving and accepting of gay and lesbian people than it is to make a political stand against their civil rights, and I think that we need to teach science in science classes and save the teaching of religion for religion classes (offered by the church if not available in school). But I do not think that any of these issues is worth drawing a line in the sand over, and saying to other Christians that I will not worship with them if they hold different views from me. Afterall what is gained if any of these issues pushes people on either side out? Do we gain when we win acceptance for a new group but lose half our existing family? Over the next few days I will make short arguments in favour of my views on these issues – but for those who disagree please know:

I seek a dialogue and understanding, and I still value you as brothers and sisters in Christ and do not want to split our church.

I do understand that there are many who feel a strong urge to maintain the purity of the church. That’s nothing new – there have been such people among the people of God since at least the time of Christ. In his time they were called Pharisees. They were perfectly sincere believers who wanted nothing more than to maintain the purity of their religion. They went out of their way to make sure people understood what the rules were and how to keep them. But they did do what they did out of genuine sincerity and a desire to have a pure religion. There are many today who do the same thing, and I still don’t think it’s insincere. The only thing I would ask is; are you sure that it’s your place? Afterall doesn’t the Bible say 1) That our purity comes from Christ and not from our own effort and 2) That it is the job of the Holy Spirit to convict of sin?

Now without getting into the issues, because frankly I think they are all secondary to the main point, I have to ask – what is our purpose? Is it to be lawyers who prosecute infractions of God’s law, or witnesses who testify of God’s love? In other words – what does Jesus want his church to be known for? Frankly I think he can speak for himself:


You must love each other, just as I have loved you. If you love each other, everyone will know that you are my disciples.

So what about this Culture War as many call it? Should we shy away from debating social issues? Should we stifle opposing opinions? Should we change everything we do every time the wind changes? Should we refuse to change ever? To each question I say – God forbid. Ensuring that the church is both relevant to the culture we live in and faithful to God is a constant process. Debating our positions is healthy, disagreement is evidence of intelligence, because if we always agree about every thing someone isn’t using their God-given brain. Change for the sake of change, and refusal to change for the sake of refusal are equally bad. What becomes dangerous is when we allow debate and diversity to become division. Love for one another MUST come before church politics. The day that a church splits over differences of opinion is the day it has failed at the one thing it was formed to do. Whether your position is one of traditional purity or progressive contextualization – we all must put love for one another ahead of our opinions and positions.

We cannot allow differences of opinion or interpretation to divide our church.


From → Church, Society

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