In my last post entitled “Truth or Tradition” I took a look at how we as individual Christians and corporate churches blur the lines between what is truth and what we have been taught. Tradition can become doctrine to us if we do not think for ourselves. Conversely, doctrine can also be lowered to merely tradition if we are not careful. Somewhere there exists a line we must not cross. Unfortunately, very few people agree on where that line is.
Adding to the confusion about this subject is the focus on separation. Can we fellowship with those who hold beliefs different than our own? If the answer is yes, do our doctrines really make any difference? If the answer is no, to what extent should we avoid others? When we throw in the discussions of ecclesiastical separation (between churches) and secondary separation (refusing to fellowship with people who fellowship with those with whom we disagree), things really get messy.
Where should the line be drawn? At a recent ordination council, the candidate was asked a very telling question. “Which of your beliefs would you die for?” If standing on a belief is worth your life, then in my estimation it is worth the loss of a few friends. I will not associate myself in a ministry endeavor when others involved will stand against the clearly presented truths of the Bible. The most basic of these is the message of salvation by faith through Jesus Christ alone. If you hold open the door to the possibility of some other way of salvation, I can be your friend but not your co-laborer in ministry.
I recently came across an interesting statement by Dean Flemming in Contextualization in the New Testament (p. 230). He says, “Although Paul is more than willing to become ‘all things to all people’ in matters that are nonessential, he draws a ‘line in the sand’ before anything that challenges the unique supremacy of Jesus Christ, his sole sufficiency to mediate salvation, or his lordship over Christian conduct.” Paul was willing to give the gospel to people in a language they could understand, but he refused to backtrack on the message of the cross.