Is Bad Theology More Grievous Than Division?

Piper’s response to this question gave me a fair bit to think about. In the video, Piper says:

Here’s the way I answer questions like that (and I ask them to myself all the time): It depends on the degree and nature of the division compared with the degree of seriousness to the theology mistaken.

I’m sad that we’re not all on the same page eschatologically. I wish Sam Storms and I were on the same page. I wish Doug Wilson and I were on the same page. And we’re not, and that’s sad.

It doesn’t cause me too many tears at that level. But when I see somebody I love going to a hurtful view of God, then I can be really grieved, and that hurts.

So that’s the theology side. There are some theological moves that are so destructive and so dishonoring to God and so close to the center that we should be deeply grieved and angered by them.

On the other hand, there are all kinds of divisions. If two of my elders hated each other—I mean, if they were saying ugly things about each other and doing wicked things, that would emotionally probably take me down deeper than most of these theological things.

I love our elder fellowship. I was meeting with the elders last night until 11 o’clock, and I came home just saying, “I love these guys!” Thirty guys sitting around a table, one heart, one mind, pulling together for the good of the church is the joy of my life. It has been for 30 years. If that broke at Bethlehem and the thing became war and anger and hurtful speech, probably emotionally I would be way more undone than by theological issues.

So what can you say? There are some kinds of disunity that are small and don’t move me. Other kinds that are deep, immediate, personal, and heart-wrenching. So in any given case I would have to ask, “What is the theological issue? and What is the kind of division? And then I’ll tell you which bothers or hurts or grieves me more.”

By John Piper © Desiring God

When we look at issues of theology and the things we divide over, do we always consider the degree of the offense or the root of the theological divide?

Sometimes, although not always, what we consider bad theology is due to preference. For example, I think the Arminian view of salvation is bad theology. But I still believe those who holds to this theological position are brothers & sisters in Christ. However, if one considers the crucifixion to be an act of “divine child abuse,” that is a grievous error worthy of separation. If someone denies the sufficiency of Scripture, again, there are grounds for division.

Similarly the things we divide over often come down to preference. Style of music. Dress. Bible translation (e.g. KJV only)… These are not things that need to cause division.

Thoughts?

What issues are points of division for you?

What positions are you willing to agree to disagree upon?

  • Daniel Lyle

    It seems that piper is saying to consider each instance on a case by case basis and to avoid painting with a large brush. I agree. Additionally, I think we need to be careful about applying our own logical assumptions to others theological positions… For example, we Calvinist often preach the supremacy of God assuming no one else cares. Which is totally bogus. Just because someone does not preach Calvinism does not mean that they have a low view of God. They may not follow the same line of reasoning but that does not mean that they do not have the same base of reasoning… i.e. God is supreme over all creation. People often don’t follow their theological persuasion to the logical conclusion.

    • http://hardwords.wordpress.com Aaron Armstrong

      Thanks for your comment, Daniel. I really appreciate this point:

      People often don’t follow their theological persuasion to the logical conclusion.

      How have you found this to play out in your own life?

      I find that I struggle with a disconnect between knowing that God is supreme over all and living like I believe it, particularly on days when my back is up and stress levels are high.

      • http://www.hillsbiblechurch.org/ Don

        I find that I struggle with a disconnect between knowing that God is supreme over all and living like I believe it…

        For me, this comment hits the nail on the head. There is a real danger that our adherence to a theological position is more an intellectual exercise than a matter of the heart. We may delight in the ‘logic’ of our position but life doesn’t reflect the theology we espouse with such pride.

        I suggest this is one of the great lies of Satan. He gets God’s children to settle for intellectual satisfaction in place of the real thing – heart-held, life-changing convictions that change a person from the inside out.

        • http://hardwords.wordpress.com Aaron Armstrong

          I suggest this is one of the great lies of Satan. He gets God’s children to settle for intellectual satisfaction in place of the real thing – heart-held, life-changing convictions that change a person from the inside out.

          Agreed. It’s probably the most consistent sin in my life, although there are others. And it’s been the thing that’s been cropping up again and again and again in my reading. I swear, every other day it’s like, “Oh, by the way, trust Christ.”

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