Thursday, September 28, 2006

Majors, Minors, and Inconsequentials

Lately the debates have intensified about the issues in and surrounding the Memphis Declaration and the Joshua Convergence. I myself have contributed to, and approved of these debates. I've seen a lot of agreement and even some persuasion come about as a result of these debates. However, I've also seen these debates used to revisit some of the same issues that have been debated ad nauseum. One might almost think that some people just like to argue.

In large measure the debates of this past week have been interesting and, at times, even productive. They have caused me to think. As I engaged in this sometimes dangerous practice (thinking), I wondered what we might accomplish if we ever were to shift our focus.

At the risk of sounding like a “can’t we all just get along” post, here’s what I’ve been thinking. This week Kevin Bussey has repeatedly asked “why must there always be a battle?” I submit that we live in a constant state of war whether we know it or not. The key is that the battle is NOT against one another, but against a real enemy. There are culture wars and battles of ideas going on constantly today. Ultimately the root ideologies are either from God or they are not. This may seem like an oversimplification, but it seems appropriate if the goal is to encourage us to look at the big picture.

I’ve recently been reading a book by Robert Greene entitled The 33 Strategies of War. It’s been an interesting read and it talks about historical warfare strategies that the author encourages readers to apply to everyday conflicts. He’s not a Christian and that comes across in the book, but this is not my point. One of the first strategies he discusses is recognizing the enemy. Once we know who is and is not the enemy then, and not before then, we can begin to wage an effective war.

Recently there have been quarrels over issues such as private prayer languages and alcohol. These are issues that need to be addressed for sure, but they are not and should not be the issue concerning whether or not we will band together. Make no mistake, we are in a fight.

Greene tells a the story from The Anabasis, of Xenophon and his band of Greeks who, after a series of events ended up deep in the Persian Empire and betrayed by the Persians. They quarreled among themselves for a while and some were killed by the Persians as a result. Once they realized that they were in a fight for their lives and their fellow Greeks were not the enemy, they managed to band together to flee back to Greece. Working together, many survived.

The point is that our fellow Christians are not the enemy. Those who hold to the principles of orthodoxy are on the same side as we are. The principles I refer to are often called the “Fundamentals of the Faith.” These basic principles include:
1) The verbal plenary inspiration of the Bible.
2) The deity of Christ (I think many of us would hold that the doctrine of the Trinity is a matter of orthodoxy.)
3) The Virgin Birth of Christ.
4) The Substitutionary Atonement (Christ, though He was man was sinless and did in fact die for our sins and was raised from the dead on the third day).
5) The imminent return of Christ (He is coming back, and although we don’t know when we are looking forward to it).

Most churches that agree with these are churches that we can work with. I would be even more comfortable (usually) working with churches who subscribe to the teachings of the Baptist Faith and Message. These are the doctrines that we hold to as Christians and as Baptist. Beyond this, we can only get closer. And don’t mistake me, I believe that while we are here on earth there will be disagreements. We cannot know everything about God or our faith in this life, but we strive together to understand our faith and to be better Christians.

One professor I know routinely instructs his classes that they must “major in the majors” and “minor in the minors.” Too often we find ourselves getting bogged down in the small things when we end up “majoring in the minors.” Once we come together and recognize the major issues then we can confront those as well. These are issues such as fulfilling the Great Commission and raising up a generation for Christ.


Kevin Bussey said...


Another good post. I agree about battles with the world and Satan. My question is why do we battle with other believers. Maybe I'm more open because of my para-church upbringing. But I have friends in many denominations and many in the SBC who think differently than me, but I'm not going to battle with them.

My Dad is a 5-point calvanist. I'm less than 5. Am I going to fight with him? No! We have fun debates, but I love him and respect his views. That is the way it should be among all believers.

Monk-in-Training said...


As an outsider, I hope you don't mind my observation.

I hear your authentic voice seeking a correct understanding of God in Christ. It seems to me you are thirsting for more clarity in your faith. You are right, the battle isn't to be against one another, sadly the true Enemy wins when all that energy is focused on one another.

I know you don't want to have a "can't we all just get along" post, but in the end Jesus does not ask about our belief in the "verbal plenary inspiration" of the Scriptures from the Throne of Judgment, He asks what we did to the least of those among us.

Historically, Monks are to be tellers of truth to the world, even when how things are conflict with how we want them to be, and this statement is not aimed at you personally, but I want to share this.

Theology is a great pursuit, but it must be able to outlast the searing heat of our life experiences, or in the end what good is it? Hungry orphans, lonely prisoners, hapless widows, dying people don't give a whit about the Virgin Birth or Substitutionary Atonement. They have real needs and meeting them opens the door to lead them to the Salvation need that is under all the others.

St. James the Just, younger brother of Christ Himself tells us how useless a Faith without works is, and to be honest, I think the world sees the arguments of the Church as one more reason not to have anything to do with the Risen Christ we purport to serve.

Matt Knight said...


Thank you for the comment and the commitment to fighting the right battle and avoiding counterproductive fights with one another. I too enjoy vigorous debate from time to time--it sharpens us and yes, can be fun.


You are exactly right. I believe it is important to have it right when it comes to our faith, but "having it right" it meaningless if our faith doesn't affect the way we live. James speaks to this in a powerful way, proclaiming faith without works to be dead. In James 2 he declares that even the demons know theology, but knowing theology does not make one righteous.