Thursday, March 11, 2021

Dividing Lines

That sound you hear is my heart breaking. 

Yesterday, I awoke to several proud announcements on my Twitter feed from faculty and friends at a leading 'evangelical' institution/seminary who were excited to announce that they have now formed a denomination-specific cohort. "So if you're a member of X denomination looking to continue your theological education, you can now do it with a group of your own peers! Sign up today!"

And this...this is so much the greatest problem that we have in the church.

We have drawn so many dividing lines between ourselves. We have put ourselves into little boxes and formed little groups, and this isn't getting better - it's getting worse. We tell ourselves that it's all about 'preserving' important things like 'right doctrine' or whatever, but we simply can't let the church be defined by such squabbles as who's got it right and who's got it wrong. 

God called us to unity. He called us to live together as brothers and sisters, to learn from each other, to challenge each other, to work together to discern more of His will and His love and His heart than we could on our own. He didn't call us to live in our own little worlds, but to live in His great big one.

Yet, here we are, claiming that we alone have the authority over His world and that all the good things of God fit in our own beloved tiny little box. 

And for a center of theological education to declare - and not even just to declare, but to proudly declare - that it has now made a way for you to stay in your little God-box and feel good about it,'s just heartbreaking. 

See, what I envision is that a person who wants to pursue a theological education would be someone who wants to open his or her mind to new ideas about God, who wants to see something more of God than he or she has ever seen before. If that's true, then you have to have a set of eyes that is different than your own. You have to be open to hear from those who see differently than you do. 

The best theological education would take these persons and put them in cohorts with others from other denominations. It would present to all of them, to every student, perspectives from the angles of all of their fellow students, and more. Why can a Lutheran not learn from Presbyterian doctrine? Why can an Anglican glean nothing from a non-denominational history? Why must we pretend that in order for theology to be valid, it must fit into what we already know about it?

Is it possible that good theology must fit only into what we know for certain about God Himself? 

Is it possible that every single one of us, at every point in our journey, needs our theology challenged so that we can come to have a greater theology? 

One of the questions that the world has about the church is why there are so many churches on so many corners with so many names and why Christians can't seem to agree on even the most basic ideas about God, and what this 'educational' institution is doing is exactly why the world has these questions. We're perpetuating it ourselves. We're making it not only easy, but somehow even proclaiming it as 'good,' to let Christians be comfortable in our divisions. Heaven forbid someone have to wrestle with something. Heaven forbid someone have to listen to a voice they don't immediately agree with. Heaven forbid we have a fellowship, let alone a learning fellowship, that includes Catholics and Protestants, charismatics and legalists, saints and sinners. 

So that noise you hear is my heart breaking for God's church as yet one more voice steps forward to say how good it is to be only with those who share your specific perspective when God, God Himself, called us to so much more. 

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