I want to briefly sketch out a few thoughts I had as I observe the tensions related to the schisms in the church today over addressing issues of race and justice. This actually started off as a Facebook post but as I kept typing, I thought it would be better served as a blog post. It’s not meant to be exhaustive and know that what I’m about to write can be expanded on. But I just wanted to address this common charge that I see quite often in the woke/anti-woke wars (for lack of a better term). And its this: those Christians aren’t upholding Scripture and undermining its authority. Honestly, I see it on both sides.
Well it is true that some can be ignoring Scripture and disregarding its authority, I’m referring to the vast number of Christians in relatively orthodox spaces that preach the gospel, uphold scriptural authority, and believe the church is Jesus’ bride to accomplish his purposes. Based on some extended observation, I don’t think the problem is so much that people aren’t relying on Scripture or upholding its authority. Rather, it’s how the framework of Scripture is being interpreted and applied to present day circumstances with varying understandings of sola scriptura. Everyone who professes Christ and scriptural authority are coming to vastly different conclusions. Why is that?
The more conservative/fundamentalists tends to draw harder lines between the historical context of the Bible and present day issues. They are more likely to separate its application from academic disciplines related to life. On the extreme end, the fundamentalist sees no room for any thought outside of Scripture to have relevance to the Christian faith. When led by a resistance to worldliness for the sake of Christian faithfulness, they may be prone to divorcing faith and works as James commends in his epistle.
On the flip side, the more progressive types will make broader applications to address present day issues and see some value in what academic disciplines offer. On the extreme end, the progressive type will likely play fast and loose with interpretation and application in the interest of a particular outcome under the guise of a Christian response. When led by the prevailing narratives of our day concerning race and justice, the progressive type is prone to be captured by its philosophies (cf. Col. 2:8)
The truth is there can be unfaithfulness on both sides of the equation. The fundamentalists can circumvent more generous applications that would be consistent with a faithful Christian response to the issues of our day while claiming Christian orthodoxy. The progressives can circumvent foundational orthodoxy with overly generous applications while claiming Christian orthopraxy. In other words, the fundamentalist can be unfaithful to Christian orthopraxy and the progressive can be unfaithful to Christian orthodoxy while everyone is claiming the same Lord and reading the same Bible.
Why is this important? Because if we are dealing with members of God’s own household, we first have an obligation ensure that we are treating each other as such. Who do folks say Jesus is? Let’s start there. Charges of scriptural infidelity or worse, heresy, might be outplaced when the real issue is how we are reading the Bible and considering its applications in a complex world.
On that note, I came across this short blog post today that I think really speaks to this issue and the title says it all — When you are tempted to think you are at war with fellow Christians.
For the past year, Christians have grown increasingly frustrated with one another. People have left churches. Pastors have attacked pastors. Online wars have commenced. There is a place to write, defend, and engage in polemics. But in so doing, we need to maintain what is objectively true: we are one body of Christ objectively: “For in one Spirit we were all baptized into one body—Jews or Greeks, slaves or free—and all were made to drink of one Spirit” (1 Cor 12:13).
Our subjective feelings of hatred or frustration need to match what is objectively true about our body. And we should love our body, love another as the Bible often commends.
That’s a good word to end on.