Throat Slitting not Shibboleth
I tried to write this piece twice now. I keep deleting it and pretending it isn't on my mind. So instead I'm just going to forgo waxing elegantly
(inserts pause for the "when has he ever done that" joke)
<cough> waxing elegantly, I am simply going to do a bullet format ramble on some thoughts. The topic of the day: "Defending Ourselves and Not the Gospel or How to Deny the Inherent Power of the Risen Christ while Appearing Fervent for the Gospel."
- Every denomination has issues. I am most familiar with the doctrinal issues in the SBC, OPC, and PCA. They exist everywhere and these issues are real. They are usually serious doctrinal issues that need to be talked through and hashed out.
- However, many of these issues are the result of people staring at the same problem and coming to different conclusions on the solution. One overly general example would be how Karl Barth and the Plymouth Brethren responded to theological liberalism. Barth lifted up the Word of God (Jesus Christ) and brought back orthodoxy. At the time, Barth looked liked a conservative. Now conservatives label him liberal and never read him (they will be lamenting this for a century). The Plymouth Brethren laid the ground work for the fundamentalist, uber-literalistic reading of the Bible that resulted in the premillennial, pre-tribulation cult that is Dispensationalism. Both rejected liberalism's hermeneutics and theology but the two have never liked each other.
- Setting aside that extreme example, I believe similar things occur within denominations to this day at many levels. Organizations of living, breathing, and loving people recognize real problems, disagree about what the solution is, and proceed to defend their solutions. These "problems" include how to interpret certain passages of Scripture, structure a service or best exemplify "being Christ-like." In most cases both solutions are truly concerned with rectifying "the problems." They are not out to exacerbate the situation.
- Eventually these differing solutions become warring parties. Suddenly these solutions become the only form of "the gospel." These warring parties turn to throat slitting and gospel denying factions while the original problems remain un-addressed by a unified body of Christ.
- Churches need to step back from their Shibboleth bridges. This will involve individuals, sessions, presbyteries, synods, etc. The gospel does not need our protection. We are called to protect it. But it does not need us. When we try to enforce our Shibboleth, we turn to throat slitting. Instead we need to acknowledge that our differences are severe and we are called to seek reconciliation not presume the other needs repentance.
*Note: Alternately I could have ran this same idea through the prism of "The Offensive Altar" found in Joshua 22. The passage remains homework for the exception reader.