Disagreement amongst Christians is normal and unity does not mean uniformity
by Peter Saunders
My father was a Congregationalist and my mother Anglican and after leaving home my brother joined the Baptists and I the Open Brethren. I married my Presbyterian wife in a Christian Missionary Alliance church, and during house-jobs we were members of an Apostolic Pentecostal fellowship. Later whilst working in another city we were members of a charismatic Anglican and then, following another move, went to a house church made up of mainly first generation converts from the 70s hippie movement.
After joining the Africa Inland Mission in Kenya as medical missionaries we spent two years at a multinational Bible college with 170 students from 40 countries and twice as many denominations, during which time we attended an Elim church. Now we are Free Evangelical.
Living in twelve different houses in five cities in three countries in your first ten years of marriage provides an interesting perspective on church culture; but one thing it has taught me is that Christians disagree over doctrine (what they should believe) and practice (how they should behave). In this, and other articles, I will explore why Christians disagree, and consider how they should handle disagreement when it happens.
Belief, behaviour, association, regeneration
What makes a Christian? Is it about belief, behaviour, association or something else? It is clearly important to believe certain things about Jesus Christ, but belief is not enough. After all even the demons believe – and shudder. Also being a Christian does not guarantee that all our beliefs are correct; which is why the apostle Paul had to write so many letters to churches who had it wrong! Being a Christian involves repentance (change in behaviour) but there are people with good behaviour who are not Christians and people with bad (albeit improving) behaviour who are. And whilst Christians should associate with other Christians, going to church does not make a person a Christian. Belief, behaviour and association are important; but it is actually regeneration that makes a person a Christian: that is Christians are people who have been ‘born from above’, become a ‘new creation' and have the Holy Spirit living in them…
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