Controversial Topics

I have finally begun my third and final class of this semester: The Spirit, Church, and Last Things. Now, I know what you are thinking. Can they possibly lump three more controversial topics into one class? That remains to be seen. As I look at these topics I see the three main issues that determine where someone may or may not worship. If you have a heavy emphasis on the Spirit and the gifts of tongues, healing, miracles, etc., then you will likely go to a church that reflects that. If you believe in infant baptism, congregational church government, men or women pastors, or see the church as an option rather than a command, those will also determine what you will do with your Sunday. If you believe in a literal rapture or that the great tribulation has already occured, you will again have some decisions to make about where you worship.
I don't know if this is good or bad. There are very educated, godly men and women who fall on all sides of these arguments. However, I would say that many of these teachings would fall into the secondary issue level rather than the primary. By that I mean that you can still be a Christian and disagree on baptism or the role of the Holy Spirit or what the world will look like when Christ returns. Primary issues are more essential. Do you believe in the deity of Christ, that He is the Son of God and your Savior? Do you believe in the inerrant word of God? Is scripture your final authority? I would place these as primary concerns.
That doesn't mean that these secondary ones are unimportant or not essential. If we believe that "all scripture is God-breathed and useful..." (2 Tim. 3:16) then that includes everything the scriptures talk about, not just the things that are less controversial. Maybe a way to think about it is this. The primary issues determine who you fellowship with (i.e. go to conferences with, talk about Christianity, maybe even study the Bible with) whereas the secondary issues determine where you go to church.
What I find very interesting is that in our culture today in the good ol' USA, the primary issues are the ones that are seeming to become the most controversial. 30 years ago most Christians never questioned the deity of Christ, the importance of belonging to a local church, the centrality of preaching, the inerrancy of scripture, or God as Creator. The controversial issues were the ones I'm studying in my class. However, today the controversy surrounds the viability and relevance of scripture, whether or not Christ really was God or just an example, the need to actually go to a physical church, and whether or not God even has a role in the world. These are controversies the church is facing! Things have certainly changed. But what hasn't changed is the truth of God's word. Whether it is recognized or not, God's Word remains God's Word. Christians should confidently go to it and rely on it, now more than ever.
I'll write more about this idea of resting on God's Word in the midst of our post-modern world next time.


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