Resolving Honest Differences
NCW 75, April-June 2002
Q. There are always doctrinal and theological differences between believers, both between denominations as well as within local congregations of a single denomination. How does one resolve these differences?
A. The goal of every congregation - and indeed of the whole Body of Christ - is a unity of the faith (Eph.4:13). This takes time, patience, long-suffering, and careful education. It can't be rushed and people cannot be corralled into a belief. At the same time, any body such as NCCG must, and does, have a unified doctrine and practice. We accept that people led to us by the Ruach haQodesh (Holy Spirit) will have differences that will take time to iron out and such must be accepted, loved, and ministered to at a pace they are willing to accept.
NCCG may be said to have a five-tiered system of doctrine that roughly corresponds to a soul's maturity and ability to comprehend. There are (1) the baptised members (who are required to understand and accept no more than the Apostles' Creed), (2) full chrismated (confirmed and communicant) members (who are required to understand and accept Foundational Studies of the Bible, the (3) Deaconate, the (4) Eldership, and the (5) Apostolate (who are required to understand and accept the respective levels of their own Order's teachings and practices).
Members (men and women) are admitted to the several Orders (a) as they are called by the Ruach (Spirit), and (b) as they grow in spiritual understanding and attain doctrinal harmony with those in that Order.
By way of illustration, let us take the notoriously difficult Godhead doctrine about which Christians have been divided over for so long. A baptised member need not accept anything more than the deity of Christ whereas an Apostle will have come to acceptance and understanding of the full-fledged Echad doctrine of the Holy Order.
That there are several levels of understanding, the ones beneath being simplifications of those above, means that members must exercise restraint and self-limitation when it comes to disagreements and misunderstandings. We are to avoid contentiousness (Prov.18:19; 2 Cor.12:20; Tit.3:9, etc.). We are not to demand explanations of doctrines we cannot yet understand, nor impose our knowledge on those who cannot yet receive it. Here great care and sensitivity needs to be exercised. Those who do not understand must show deference to those who do, and those who do understand must be patient with those who do not. But above all, there should be cultivation of the bond of love around those things one is agreed on.
This page was created on 16 June 2004
Last updated on 16 June 2004
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