essentials in unity,in the non-essentials have liberty,but in all things they do,try to do in love (Footnote #18)

This is footnote #18 from a chapter in my book. I reference it a lot in conversation, so I am posting it here for ease of reference without having people — nor myself — having to search through pages or programs to see it. Enjoy:

I like to say, “I am a Baptist at heart, just not in dress or drink.” Which is a humorous way of saying I am a product of the hippie/boomer generation while at the same time I very much enjoy doctrinal orthodoxy. Being at a church that defends the major aspects of the faith and allows at the same time the grace and space needed to grow and learn — which often times is a lifetime — has been a blessing. So what we defend is God the Father and the Revelation He gave us (the Bible), Jesus Christ the Son and the work he wrought on the Cross for us, and the Holy Spirit and the daily regeneration He works in us. Let me, if you will, share a response to a young man whom contacted me via email. He seemed a bit confused and almost demanded that people know and accept inerrancy before taking them as believers. Here is my response to him, it is long but still in abridged form:

I myself am still learning about theology, God, relationships in the Body, etc. What I believed about God, His Son, and the Holy Spirit 10-years ago I have matured in. Would you have run me through a list of doctrinal beliefs (10-years ago) and if we didn’t agree on this list would I be your friend? Would I be allowed a place in your church to be able to hash out life issues, theology, and the like; a place where relationships can grow and spurn understanding and deeper knowledge about God, His Son, and the Holy Spirit as well as all the dynamics (or egos) between the body of Christ? I suspect, because I am a finite being, that in 10-years from now I will have matured and reformulated peripheral beliefs about my faith as well as growing in understanding of the shared Christian’s doctrinal foundations. In fact, Paul says that we look through a clouded mirror and that one day we will see as we are seen. I will not fully comprehend everything I need to until I stand before my Creator. On that day I suspect that even the knowledge of this perfect theology will give way to that relationship I was originally intended for. Dennis Prager has a neat saying, he says often to “not let the perfect get in the way of the good.” That small sentence has a big meaning. When I first started going to this church 12-years ago [from the date of this writing], I tested my pastor. One of my tests I gave was this question during general conversation (thinking all-the-while that it would reveal an all-important issue that would tell me if he was orthodox or not): “do you believe that Noah’s flood was universal.” He responded back that he “didn’t see an issue with the Flood being local.” For years that bugged me and I thought that while I enjoyed his preaching I didn’t agree with his stance on a Biblical issue that was crucial in my mind’s eye. During this time my wife and I were reunited after three-years of separation, this three-time felon went to seminary — in other words, God was working on me. I finally was in a deep conversation with him and others in a membership class and it hit me like a ton of bricks. He mentioned that separating on issues like the age of the earth is not important in the grand scheme of things (salvation), although they are fun and interesting topics to discuss, and he enjoys doing such with members who are mature enough not to find a church that they think is “perfect.” (Don’t ruin the good with the perfect, in other words.) What is important is what God the Father provided us with, what Jesus accomplished on the cross (and thusly who He is), and how the Holy Spirit is regenerating our lives through Him and the body of Christ, the kinesthetics of God touching our lives, so-to-speak. God won’t deny a person into heaven if he or she believes the earth to be 4.5 billion years old… they nor I will not really care how old the earth is at that point anyhow — he or she gets in because they know Jesus, not doctrine. Jesus is preeminent, doctrine is secondary. Secondary in that it may take a life-time in a healthy-well-balanced church to really know and understand doctrine. My pastor, I found out later, is a committed young-earth creationist like myself, after finding this out I felt embarrassed about my list of questions I asked 12-years ago. There are people that I rub shoulders with at church that do not believe the following like my or I believe. In fact, they may never learn how to express this truth as well as Norman Geisler until the day they die:

Holy Scripture, as the inspired Word of God witnessing authoritatively to Jesus Christ, may properly be called infallible and inerrant. These negative terms have a special value, for they explicitly safeguard crucial positive truths. Infallible signifies the quality of neither misleading nor being misled and so safeguards in categorical terms the truth that Holy Scripture is a sure, safe, and [a]reliable rule and guide in all matters. Similarly, inerrant signifies the quality of being free from all falsehood or mistake and so safeguards the truth that Holy Scripture is entirely true and trustworthy in all its assertions. We affirm that canonical Scripture should always be interpreted on the basis that it is infallible and inerrant. However, in determining what the God-taught writer is asserting in each passage, we must pay the most careful attention to its claims and character as a human production. In inspiration, God utilized the culture and conventions of his penman’s milieu, a milieu that God controls in His sovereign providence; it is misinterpretation to imagine otherwise. (Geisler)

However, if conversation comes up with a person or family of our church who doesn’t know all the aspects of the doctrine of inerrancy/infallibility, they may know at least this much after a discussion with myself or another person whom loves theology: “that inerrancy means that Scripture in the original manuscripts does not affirm anything that is contrary to fact” (Grudem). In case you didn’t catch what that sentence meant, it means that the Bible always tells the truth, and that it always tells the truth concerning everything it talks about (Grudem). However, to run down a list with a family that has gone to the church for 2-years, or for 10-years about where they stand on inerrancy would cause more harm than good in my mind’s eye. These persons need a safe environment where they can grow, disagree, hash things out, learn, inculcate… all the while learning about the essentials in unity, in the non-essentials have liberty, but in all things they do, try to do in love (Rupertus Meldenius/Augustine).