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Christians in Controversy
by Brenda Lee Renwick

     “United in Christ, yet a different church on every corner.” This comment was made by a Jewish acquaintance as we drove into town for a wedding. There was no answer I could make—no defense of my coreligionists; he was right.

    “That they may be one as We are one.” (John 17:11 NKJV) Jesus prayed that for all his disciples. He wanted unity for us, yet we let such silly things divide us. 

    Controversies arise so often and so needlessly among sincere, Bible-believing Christians. The Baptists look down on the Methodists; the Pentecostals look down on the Baptists; the Presbyterians think they’re all crazy…you get the gist.

    Strongly held convictions are a good thing: they give stability and direction. Convictions differ from opinions in that a conviction is based on reason, and an opinion is based on emotion. Of course, a person with strong convictions can get emotional about his/her beliefs, just an opinionated person can give seemingly rational reasons for his opinions. It’s almost impossible to tell convictions and opinions apart from a distance.
The problem that arises when equally well thought-out convictions clash is that both people have a basis for believing they are right—and sometimes they both are!

    Remember the story of the three blind men and the elephant? The three blind men came upon an elephant and began to examine the creature with their hands. In trying to describe the creature to one another, the first said: ‘an elephant is like a snake.’ The second replied: ‘no, the elephant is like a wall.’ The third answered: ‘but no, you are both wrong. The elephant is like a rope.’ 

    None of the blind men was wrong, but their descriptions were incomplete. They described what they had experienced—from their perspectives. And that’s the basis for a lot of our interdenominational and personal disagreements: we have experienced different aspects and attributes of God, and we mistakenly believe that we’ve had it all. 

“ ‘For My thoughts are not your thoughts,
Nor are your ways My ways,’ says the Lord.
‘For as the heavens are higher than the earth,
So are My ways higher than your ways,
And My thoughts than your thoughts.’” (Isaiah 55:8&9, NKJV)
    God has revealed himself to us through His creation and His Word, as well as through His Son, but can we grasp all that He is? We will spend eternity learning about our God, so how can we expect to have a comprehensive picture of Him here and now? And how dare we tell another that his image is out of focus? He simply sees God from a different angle. After all—we can’t all be standing in the same spot.

    At this point I’m sure some of my fundamentalist brethren are dismissing me as an ecumenical crank, but that’s not so. I’m not preaching universal acceptance. I’m just saying “wait and see.” I do believe that some doctrines are right and some wrong, but I also believe that we don’t know all there is to know about God—yet. 
There are some seemingly contradictory doctrines within the Bible itself. I’m referring specifically to the contrasting doctrines of free will and predestination. Is it one, or is it the other? Yes, both, and don’t ask me how—only God Himself can unravel that one, which is why I say—wait and see. 

© 2003 Brenda Lee Renwick. All Rights Reserved. Contact Brenda Renwick at brenwick@chesapeakestyle.com


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