Conflicts 101: Christian Disagreements

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Leading A Church

Most Christian conflicts arise from a philosophical stance

Christian thinking confronts each person to change, but Christians disagree on how they should interact with the surrounding culture

One extreme spectrum claims that Christ is directly against all culture and rejects any cultural claims (Christ Against Culture)

  • The fallacy comes in how people pull from their old culture and unbiblical Greek/Hebrew culture when they try to reject their birth culture entirely
  • Examples include Mennonites and some Pentecostal sects

The other extreme claims that the Gospel integrates people into their culture more and there’s no conflict between the two (Christ of Culture)

  • The Bible indicates persecution is a part of life, which is the most extreme rejection of Christ toward the culture (1 Peter 4)
  • Examples include liberal Christianity (arguably not Christian) and the Gnostics

Some people compromise both views and say that Christ is working through both the Church and the culture (Christ Above Culture)

  • The idea holds that God can use anything for His purposes with equal effectiveness
  • Examples include the Roman Catholics and Orthodox churches

Others contend that God created the world’s culture before it was tainted (Christ and Culture in Paradox)

  • Christians in this view accept some elements of mainstream culture and reject others since all good things come from God
  • One example is the Puritans in the early USA

Many groups have believed that since Christ is redeeming all mankind, Christians should rehabilitate all culture to God’s perfect plan (Christ the Transformer of Culture)

  • Christians believe their role in this is to convert culture toward a perfect end
  • Most Reformed groups in the Protestant Reformation have adhered to it

Finally, some groups believe Christians are presenting a new culture altogether which needs to interact with the world (Christ the Alternative to Culture)

  • The concept is that a Christian should show the perfect culture that the rest of the world will either model or reject
  • Most modern churches adhere to the idea

The Bible is explicitly clear on some things

In spite of Scripture’s evidence, many Christians and non-believers argue adamantly against them

Women can’t be pastors or any other position that rules over men (1 Timothy 2:9-15)

Some people claim it’s sexist, but God created gender distinctions for a higher purpose

Many females in so-called “pastor” roles are preachers, which straddles the line

Women should exercise strong modesty while in church and cover their heads (1 Corinthians 11)

A woman’s hair is her glory, and a man’s glory is his woman, which places a veil on all believers’ glory until the unveiling (Revelation 21:1-3)

In most modern societies, women should work on other elements of modesty first like their tongues and shirts

Homosexuality is a sin (Romans 1:26-27)

Homosexuality is as much a sin as any other sexual sins like fornication or adultery (1 Corinthians 6:18)

Many Christians have a hard time with it because it goes against the natural male-female dynamic, and they will often attack the person instead of addressing the sin

Applying the truth in societies that embrace homosexuality is a subject of never-ending debate in most Christian communities

Hell is eternal, and God reserved it for Satan and his angels (Matthew 25:41, Jude 1:7)

  • Some people claim that hell isn’t eternal or it’s a figurative state of mind, but that doesn’t match the descriptions
  • Other people don’t imagine how an all-loving God could handle

Some people have heard God’s message very clearly and are worse off from it (Deuteronomy 13:6-11, Hebrews 6:4-8, 2 Peter 2:20-22)

  • These people have followed Jesus in some way but now have absolutely no redemption available to them
  • Many people believe the referenced people were never following Jesus, but it’s difficult to discern because these people have no excuse for ignorance
  • Though the idea is extremely uncomfortable, the passages show how much God hates sin and how significant Jesus’ sacrifice was
  • Some people try to argue whether this person was a Christian at all, but they had in some definite way followed Jesus

Some issues aren’t as blatantly clear

The Bible can defend the correct stance but requires some research

Many Christians, especially new ones, ask if certain things are permissible to do

Because of grace, any Christian can do anything when they first convert and for a short time afterward (Ephesians 2:8-9)

  • New Christians discover some actions like drug/alcohol abuse, bad language, sexual immorality/porn, and gateway occult activities are sins

Because of Christ’s sacrifice, everything is permissible in Christ, though not everything has a benefit (1 Corinthians 6:12,10:23)

  • Your body is a temple to the Lord, and therefore you should do it out of love for Him (1 Corinthians 6:13-19)
  • Observe others around you and their spiritual walk (1 Corinthians 10:24)
    • For the sake of love you should watch every action you perform for others’ benefit (Romans 14)
    • Other Christians may have an issue with something under grace from their weak faith that you might not have
    • They are serving God by standing firmly against it, and you could cause them to sin by doing it in their presence
  • Love them and bear with them with their reservations in mind
    • Sometimes you won’t expect what other Christians have problems with
    • Some people have faith issues with medical care decisions, observing certain days, eating certain foods, drinking any alcohol, dancing, watching horror movies, and romance before marriage

For the sake of your spiritual walk, observe the media you consume, especially fiction stories

Look at the values the protagonist and antagonist represent

  • Watch for role inversions in plot twists, since an ending can change the entire message of the story

Look at the hero’s needs, weaknesses or faults and how the story fulfills or plays with them

Observe the story’s redemption through the hero’s conclusion near the end to see what the storyteller wants you to believe

Look at the factors that brought the characters to their conclusions, such as the events that start the story

Observe the opponent’s rationale to see what the storyteller wants you to decide against

Look at who wins, who loses, who dies and why

  • Whoever wins is reflecting the storyteller’s model of how we should act, and great writing will closely reflect a real-life example
  • Anyone who loses is showing an opposite value of what the storyteller wants us to behave by
  • If both sides win, ask what the story’s “third option” is
  • Whoever dies represents an idea that can’t exist in the storyteller’s world
    • The context can imply that the one who died is either weak or a symbol of greatness

Observe consequences for in-story behaviors, good and bad

Watch for any repeated phrases or statements spoken throughout the story

Finally, look at how the story ends and the final idea the storyteller leaves you with

Some Christians believe in a “second work” as the baptism of the Holy Spirit (Acts 2:38)

The belief holds that Jesus died for our sins as a first work, and then the Holy Spirit’s baptism is a second work that gives bold spiritual gifts

The culture usually advocates an additional component of extra-biblical revelation that non-second-work Christians don’t believe

Second-work believers emphasize an extra-biblical revelation and other spiritual gifts and dismiss strong doctrine to the contrary

However, Paul addressed the Corinthian Church as if they had universally accepted the Holy Spirit’s baptism (1 Corinthians 12:1)

  • In the same letter, Paul called the Church in Corinth spiritually immature (1 Corinthians 3:2)

Scripture doesn’t emphasize the idea of “repent, then receive the Spirit’s baptism”

Some Christians believe speaking in tongues is still active (1 Corinthians 12-14)

Many Christians confuse spiritual motivational gifts, situational gifts and sign gifts, which all have different purposes

They should also believe in both modern extra-biblical prophecies and spiritual words of knowledge to stay consistent (1 Corinthians 13:8)

Both sides of the debate have validity

  • Cessationists claim the gifts ended after Christians canonized the Bible
    • The gifts were only needed to authenticate the initial establishment of the Gospel and the Church
    • Prophecy, tongues, and knowledge ceased when the perfect came, which was the completion of the Bible (1 Corinthians 13:8-10)
    • Sign gifts like tongues and prophecy undermine the Bible’s full authority and sufficiency for everything (2 Timothy 3:16)
    • The gifts we see miraculously are not the same as the ones the Apostles received
  • Continuationists believe that all the gifts of the Apostles are available today
    • The gifts are still in effect for anyone who earnestly desires them, since nothing contradicts it (1 Corinthians 14:1)
    • The perfect coming in Scripture is referring to Christ’s second coming (1 Corinthians 13:8-10)
    • The gifts of revelation don’t have the same authority as Scripture, and must always be tested (1 John 4:1)
  • Both sides agree on many of the same points
    • Test every proclamation against Scripture (1 John 4:1)
    • Nobody can add anything to Scripture (Revelation 22:18)
    • It’s not wise to claim personal words from the Lord that were for someone else
  • We should be open to the Holy Spirit working in unexpected ways, whether we call it prophecy or insight

Tongues and prophecy, assuming they’re still present at all, should be managed correctly

  • God made tongues for unbelievers and prophecy for believers (1 Corinthians 14:22)
  • Tongues always had a recipient who understood it when it was publicly spoken (Acts 2)
  • An entire church that speaks in tongues together is running a church incorrectly (1 Corinthians 14:40)
  • People who speak in tongues should also desire more useful gifts (1 Corinthians 14:19)

Many Christians believe in a “prosperity doctrine”

Prosperity doctrine believes that applying faith to any physical issue will solve it through God removing the issue

They make many audacious, polarizing claims

  • They claim that the covenant God made with Abraham applies to all Christians for material gain (Genesis 12, 15, 17, 22)
  • One prevailing idea is that giving will bring future material gain, a bit like a spiritual form of investing
  • They see faith as a prevailing spiritual force of willpower and desire
  • The belief emphasizes that Jesus placed all sin, sickness, disease, sorrow, grief, and poverty on the Cross
  • Some have gone as far as believing that all Christians with enough belief can have spiritual sign gifts given to them like the Apostles

Some logical errors contradict their views

  • Most of their justifications use verses that are taken without context and ignore the surrounding verses
  • Jesus and the Apostles were homeless, and almost all of them suffered brutal and shameful deaths
  • The only disciple who cared about money was Judas who betrayed Jesus in the end
  • Faith is a refined force given directly by God, meaning we can’t add to it ourselves (Romans 12:3, 1 Peter 1:7)
  • Jesus commands His followers to carry their torture device and follow Him (Matthew 16:24)
  • He also says that nobody can serve both God and money (Matthew 6:24)
  • The promises of physical gain with a spiritual label are inaccurate to Scripture’s indication of a changed desire (Galatians 2:20)

Some people insist a specific translation of the Bible is the most authoritative

Outside of the original Greek (Majority and Minority Texts), Hebrew and Aramaic, the Bible has to lose some emphasis on ideas through translation

  • If you have faith that God translated the Bible through men to English, then it’s a small leap of additional faith to trust Scripture’s language can adapt to changes in language
  • Most of the advocates of one translation either use the King James Version written in Shakespeare’s time or the New World Translation written by the Jehovah’s Witnesses cult

Most of the reason some people defend one translation is from obtuse language that supports their ideas

Many people discredit some Bible translations based on word choice (e.g., New International Version, The Living Bible)

  • These Bibles were written to capture the spirit of Scripture, not the letter, so it was intended for casual reading

One variation of this is to indicate Jesus’ words in red lettering as more important than the rest of the Bible

  • Though this isn’t an inherent problem, it can undermine the authority of the rest of Scripture

Some people believe some of the Bible is no longer applicable

More often than not, people find something uncomfortable or offensive they don’t want to accept

People who highly value speaking in tongues discredit 1 Corinthians as not applying to a church spiritual enough to speak in tongues

Some people consider Revelation not applicable because we can’t verify its author or it only applies to that period’s trials, but history doesn’t have an accurate comparison for Revelation’s events

Some people consider Hebrews and Job as not part of the Bible because they can’t verify who wrote it, but many of those ideas are echoed fully in other Scripture passages

Many Christians don’t read the Old Testament because they believe it doesn’t apply anymore, but the Law is necessary to understand God’s grace and some of His promises transfer to the Church

Some issues have very little Scripture to defend or deny them

Christians debate endlessly about issues the Bible barely addresses

In general, only contend with issues that have a long-term spiritual gain by affecting how people rightly handle Scripture and walk with the Lord (Titus 3:9)

We all feel we have free will

Bible verses indicate God has set up everything into a plan, even evil people who will go to hell (Proverbs 16:4, Romans 9:11)

  • Bible verses also say that God has an elect He’s called (Romans 8:28-30)

At the same time, God loved the world so much He sent His Son (John 3:16)

There’s no way to reconcile God’s knowing and our independent decisions outside of philosophy

  • The concept of a free will is a never-ending philosophical debate, and every Christian swings back and forth on it

Observe people who fixate on the free will debate

  • People who believe humans have no free will usually have a groveling and miserable sense of humanity’s worth
  • People who believe in free will without God knowing ahead of time invalidate Scripture
  • Effective Christians tend to avoid the argument since it doesn’t serve any practical benefit

Many Christians will argue back and forth about how long God’s “days” were to create the universe (Genesis 1)

New Earth creationists say the six days are literal 24-hour days

  • They need to explain how a man names all the animals, gets lonely, falls asleep, and meets a woman after waking up in one day (Genesis 2:4-25)

Old Earth creationists say the period could have been billions of years, therefore fulfilling creationism and evolutionary theory

  • The Old Earth belief conforms to atheistic evolutionary theory
  • Atheists in the scientific community have made a conspiracy to hide a literal flood account and explain a relationship between humans and animals contrary to Scripture

God created the universe (Genesis 1:1)

  • How long God took to make the universe isn’t particularly relevant for living rightly

People falsely attribute many inaccurate statements and ideas to the Bible

All men are created equal (United States Declaration of Independence)

  • We are created in God’s image and have inherent value (Galatians 3:28)

Bad things happen to good people (American Proverb)

  • Nobody is good (Romans 3:10)

Cleanliness is next to godliness (Ancient Proverb)

  • The body is the temple of the Holy Spirit, but it’s not connected to godliness in any way (1 Corinthians 6:19)

God helps those who help themselves (Benjamin Franklin)

  • All Christians are called to deny themselves and put themselves to death and are helpless before salvation (Matthew 16:24, Romans 5:6)

God wants me to be happy/God loves you and has a wonderful plan for your life (American Saying/The Four Spiritual Laws)

  • God will work everything for good for those who love Him and that He calls for His purpose (Romans 8:28)

God won’t give you more than you can handle (Christian Proverb)

  • For the sake of strengthening faith, God frequently gives Christians things they can’t handle (2 Corinthians 1:8)

Judge not, that you not be judged (Matthew 7:1)

  • Only give judgment after first examining our lives for hypocrisy (John 7:24)

We all worship the same God (American Proverb)

  • There are no other gods like God, though you’ll see many imitations (Deuteronomy 4:39)

We are all God’s children (Religious Saying)

  • Only Christians become adopted children of God (Romans 8:15-16, Galatians 3:26-29)

We are all going to the same place when we die (American Proverb)

  • We technically are going to the Great White Throne Judgment together, but all Christians and non-believers will part ways afterward (Revelation 20:11-15)

When you die, God gains another angel (American Proverb)

  • The angels long to understand the relationship humans have with God (1 Peter 1:12)

Many elements of Christian culture can isolate Christianity from the world

The prevalence of Christianity in the West creates a few lame stereotypes

  • Music genres, especially contemporary-style, surrounded by extreme consumerism and vague references to either romantic partners or Jesus
  • Lame and preachy movies made on low-quality equipment that give sermon illustrations more than stories
  • Clothing brands that identify a Christian long before they can prove it to anyone
  • Church sayings and figures of speech that are either unbiblical or theologically confusing to any non-Christian
  • Using “Christian” as a marketing term
  • Weekly observance of a church ritual that doesn’t translate to daily life

Phony Christianity is a long-term byproduct of a non-persecuted Church

Many people who claim Christianity don’t follow Christ

Christians show certain characteristics

  • They confess that Jesus is God’s Son (Romans 10:9, 1 Corinthians 12:3)
  • They have a lifestyle that consistently changes as they discover new truths
  • They love others through the Holy Spirit working on them
    • Love isn’t always intimacy but is a genuine concern for others’ well-being over self-interest
  • They are growing in solid spiritual doctrine, even if they believe some false teachings

Some things labeled as “Christian” have little to do with Christianity from the Bible

  • A recollected past decision to follow Jesus, making a prayer or getting baptized
  • A visible sense of morality and a moral conviction of sin (Acts 24:24-26)
  • Intellectual knowledge of who Christians are and who Jesus is
  • Church involvement, religious affiliation or an active ministry

Don’t try to remove the church’s integration of Christian and non-Christianity

  • Some Christians have rejected the labels of “evangelical” and “Christian”, but it doesn’t address the issue
  • Many Christians obsess with unifying the churches, but unity only matters under Christ
  • Other Christians will aspire to attain extra holiness, but it’s a waste of time (Colossians 2:20-22)
  • God wants Christians intermingled with non-believers right now, so concern yourself with case-by-case relationships (Matthew 13:24-30)

The Church also has an ongoing fight with Satan that magnifies perceptions of issues

Next: Spiritual Warfare