The Bible answers the most important questions we can ask:
- Where did we come from?
- What matters?
- Who can we trust?
- Who is God?
- Is he good?
- Who is Jesus?
- Why did he die?
- Did his life end in failure?
- How can we be counted among his followers?
- How should we treat our enemy?
- Where can we find acceptance, strength, hope, and love?
- What does love look like?
But there are also many questions that the Bible leaves unanswered:
- Why is there a God?
- What did he do in eternity past?
- How will he be just, fair, and merciful in the Day of Judgment?
- What are the untold stories of heaven, hell, and eternity?
Then there are questions that we have about whether the Bible answers our questions:
- How much money should we keep or give away?
- How much time did God use and by what process did he speak the world and life into existence?
- Is it ever right to terminate a pregnancy?
- How much of the apparent age of the earth can be explained by the flood described in Genesis?
- Is the authority that men exercise over women from God, or a fallen world?
- To what extent can we know whether we are doing the will of God?
Because such issues can unnecessarily preoccupy and divide us– some down through the generations have suggested that we take the following approach:
- In essentials unity
- In non-essentials liberty
- In all things charity
The reason for the second and third lines of this formula for unity is that, as much as we might long for peace, we are bound—at some point—to disagree among ourselves about the difference between an essential or non-essential point of belief. We don’t doubt that there are some things that God has revealed and some things that God has kept to himself (Deut 29:29). But we are destined to disagree among ourselves about whether the Bible answers our questions in the way we think it does.
Such disagreement isn’t necessarily bad. Much of it is essential and healthy for many reasons: It humbles us. It tests our own thinking. It exposes our own tendency for self-deception. It helps us clarify our need for faith. It gives us a chance to love one another. It gives us an indication of whether we are being shaped by the flesh or the Spirit.
It is that last point about the flesh or the Spirit though that I find frightening. It reminds me of what the Apostle Paul wrote in his first letter to the Corinthians. While trying to urge love and unity in a badly fractured church that was fighting even around “the Lord’s table” he wrote, “No doubt there have to be differences among you to show which of you have God’s approval” (1Cor 11:19).
Sounds like disagreements among followers of Christ might be far more important and necessary than we think… and that how we handle those disagreements may provide answers that are as important, and as unexpected, as the extent to which we are right and/or wrong.