Christians Cannot Agree on Christianity – Not Even the Essentials of The Faith – So Why Base All Life Choices on the Faith or the Bible?
If you are a Christian person, you should base your life decisions on what you believe and know to be best or right for you and your particular circumstances, rather than-
Relying on what you think God wants and prefers, or on what your church’s pastor thinks the Bible is conveying, or on what your interpretation of the Bible is, or on what your favorite Christian author is telling you on about any given topic.
Christians – even those whom say they adhere to Sola scriptura or Prima scriptura – do not agree with each other, or with other Christians, or with other Christian denominations, on many subjects.
Why would you subject major life choices, such as if to marry, whom to marry, when to marry, or whether to divorce or not, based on what you think the Bible (or your church) says on these issues, when your interpretation, or theirs, could be incorrect?
And when your church’s understanding conflicts with that of another ten churches on the same subject?
Your church or pastor or favorite preacher may say God never allows divorce for any reason at all, but at the same time, there are 500,000 other preachers, churches, and denominations which do say that it’s “biblical,” moral, fine, and acceptable, for one person to divorce another in cases of physical abuse-
And / or, in cases of adultery, and/or or perhaps in cases of neglect, emotional or verbal abuse, or in other scenarios.
So, does it really make sense to base your choice of what to do in life on what one church, one denomination, one flavor of theology, or one Christian says, when Christians themselves are not in consensus on what God thinks or prefers on these matters?
White American Christians at one time used to use the Bible to justify and defend the practice of 19th century whites owning black people as slaves.
Most of us today recognize slavery as being immoral, even though the Bible does contain passages addressing the treatment of slaves in the New Testament, and I believe in the Old, as well.
(That the Bible mentions something, or establishes rules for something already in place in a culture, such as slavery or polygamy, does not necessarily mean that the Bible, or the God of the Bible, agreed with whatever that practice was, or that it was ever God’s intent for humanity in the first place. This is a point that is often lost on critics of the Bible or of Christianity.)
If Christians misused the Bible to perpetuate the evil that was slavery – and they did in fact do so – that goes to show that Christians can misuse and misunderstand the Bible concerning other issues today, such as divorce or gender complementarianism (women’s roles).
Who says your church’s preacher’s interpretation is correct?
Or that John Piper’s is correct? or Al Mohler’s or J. D. Greear’s or Russell Moore’s? Or Mark Driscoll’s? Or that the Roman Catholic Pope’s or Magisterium’s is correct?
Or who says the interpretation of the Bible by other Christian authors, theologians, or preachers, on these and other topics, is correct?
They could be absolutely and terribly and thoroughly in error on whatever topic they are addressing, whether they are appealing to biblical passages or not.
You have all these fallible people (and yes, I put the Roman Catholic Pope in this category too, even in spite of the Ex Cathedra belief) who are not capable of fully, at all times, understanding and applying the Bible infallibly on every topic.
Unity In Essentials
Many Christians will say that this is false, because there is unity in essentials, and that all these divergent groups merely disagree on the non-essentials, so the areas of disagreement are not a big deal.
I’m not so sure of that now, as I used to be.
I also believe it’s a false statement or view.
I do not believe Christians are in agreement or in unity on even the essentials of the faith, let alone secondary issues.
And some Christians disagree on what a secondary issue is in the first place.
Some Christians believe that the role of women in church and marriage is a primary issue. Some believe that Creationism vs. Age of the Earth is a primary issue. Some Christians elevate biblical prophecy to a primary point of faith.
Here is one Christian’s page questioning the issue about agreement over essentials of the faith:
Why We Need to Rethink “In Essentials, Unity; in Nonessentials, Liberty” -by Michael Horton
Now, I don’t know if I agree with Michael Horton or not on this subject, but that’s not my point in posting that link.
Here you have a Christian, Horton, who isn’t, apparently, in full agreement with the Christian trope of “it’s okay to disagree on the non-essentials, so long as we all agree on the essentials.”
You can’t even get this guy that far to the table in the first place.
Years ago, I came across a group of Christian crackpots who believe that all of the Bible is authoritative and binding on Christians today, and they were arguing this because they claimed to be Christian men who want to have more than one wife (they endorse polygamy).
These men were arguing that polygamy was supposedly acceptable among the Old Testament patriarchs, so it should be acceptable to, and accepted by, American Christians today.
I actually tried, oh so briefly, to converse with one of these men many years ago, where he ran into me on a forum, and he was arguing that there are no secondary or non-essentials in the Bible.
This pro-polygamy Christian man argued with me that all of the Bible, even the nit-picky “no ham sandwiches” dietary Old Testament rules for the ancient Jews (that the rest of us recognize that Christ rendered moot for Gentiles and Jews), should be followed by Christians today.
That was most certainly not a self-professing Christian who believes in “essentials unity, in non-essentials, liberty.” He won’t grant you that premise.
At any rate, you will not even find agreement on the “essentials vs. non-essentials” among some self-professing Christians, even the ones who do believe in that philosophy.
DISAGREEMENT ON THE ESSENTIALS
Christians cannot and do not even agree on the most basic aspects of the Christian faith, which, in my opinion, would include issues such as the following: soteriology and redemption, and topics related to these.
Christians cannot agree on the atonement, how it works, and for whom it applies; see this page for examples:
From that page, a few bits of information – the different understandings of the atonement by Christians (and this is only a partial list from the page):
#2 The Ransom Theory
#3 Christus Victor
#5 The Penal Substitutionary Theory
#7 The Scapegoat Theory
Concerning salvation, you have Christians who believe in “Conditional Security” and ones who believe in “Once Saved Always Saved,” and goodness knows how many other views there are between those two poles.
You have Christians who think that a Christian can never lose her salvation (which is the “Once Saved Always Saved” position), but Christians who believe that yes, a Christian can in fact lose her salvation or have it revoked by God (which is the “Conditional Security” belief).
What is more basic to the Christian faith than understanding how one can “get saved,” and can one’s salvation be lost, and if so, how does one get it back, or is it not possible to get it back at all?
But Christians cannot agree on these topics about salvation, of all things, and salvation is a very important and fundamental bedrock of the faith.
Christians cannot agree on which parts, if any, of the Old Testament are applicable to Christians today.
Take Jeremiah 29:11, for example. It’s the Bible verse that states:
“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.”
In the past five years alone, every month or so, I see one Christian magazine publish an article scolding Christians who believe that Jeremiah 29.11 is for Christians today: they say no, that verse was meant only for Jewish readers of X number thousands years ago, it’s not for Americans or Canadians or whomever else today.
Then another Christian magazine or blog a few months later will publish an article saying, ‘don’t be ridiculous, why of course Jeremiah 29:11 is for Christians today.’
Here are some examples of what I am talking about – some of these following authors argue that no, Jeremiah 29:11 is not for Christians today, some say it is, but only “kind of,” and some say why yes, of course, it is for Christians today, not just for the Jews of yesteryear:
Stop Taking Jeremiah 29:11 Out of Context!– Crosswalk
Which Promises Are For Me?– Gospel Coalition
Does Jeremiah 29:11 Apply to You?– Russell Moore
Is Jeremiah 29:11 a Promise to Christians? – John Piper
Does Jeremiah 29:11 Apply to New Testament Believers Today? – Randy Alcorn
And yet, I’ve read or heard testimonies by Christians who say, in the year 2016 (or later) that they felt the Holy Spirit telling them that Jeremiah 29.11 is for them today, and it converted them to the Christian faith (when they were agnostic), or it helped them through a painful time in their life, when they about gave up on God and the faith.
So, which side of this is right?
Is Jeremiah 29:11 only for Jews of thousands or years ago, or can it be relevant to Christians today too? Christians cannot agree on this.
Arminians and Calvinists cannot agree on free will, or for whom the atonement applies.
Some Christians believe in a Hell, where the un-saved go for eternity, while other Christians say no, that no such place exists; they believe in something called Annihilationism for the un-saved (where-upon death, the individual ceases to exist).
Out of the ones who do believe in Hell, some define it to mean not a literal place with literal flames, but a place of emotional distress, where the un-saved individual will be eternally sad and mopey because he or she will be always separated from having a relationship with God.
The other Christians who believe in Hell think it is a literal place with literal flames.
Doctrines and subjects such as redemption, salvation, the afterlife, should be pretty simple, straight forward, and easily agreed upon by all Christians – after all, these are some of the building blocks of the faith.
But Christians don’t agree with each other on even such rudimentary elements of their own faith.
That’s not even addressing what some may consider “lesser” subject matter, such as timing of the Rapture (or is there even a Rapture?), or, should babies or grown, professing adults be baptized, or should baptism be done via sprinkling, or via full immersion dunking?
If I remember correctly, the man behind the “Christian Diversity” You Tube channel used to be a Christian and later became an atheist or agnostic, precisely because of all the disharmony he saw among Christians and the different denominations, most of whom claim to believe in Sola Scriptura, or that the Bible should be the final authority for believers.
His You Tube channel has many videos pointing out all the topics where Christians disagree with one another:
I somewhat addressed this in a previous post on biblicism, but the older I get, and life experience informs my view of things, I don’t believe that the Bible is meant be used the way present-day evangelicals, Reformed, Baptists, and all sorts of Protestants are using it.
And how do these Christians tend to use the Bible? As a rule book, as a cook book for life, chock full of recipes that respond to any and every situation a person can possibly ever find him or herself in.
For all the decent- to- good critiques of non-biblicism’s advocates I’ve read by conservative Christians – (and the non-biblicists tend to run moderate- to- liberal, politically and theologically) – the conservative view and application of the Bible is still very flawed as well.
The liberals may get many a thing wrong about the Bible and how to use it, but so too do the conservatives.
In light of the fact that many Christians, even very conservative ones who proclaim to take the Bible literally and seriously, and who say they love Jesus, cannot agree with each other on different topics, I think the most wise thing to do is for you to make up your mind for yourself.
You’re not going to find the end-all, be-all solution to many of life’s situations or whatever problem you are encountering by turning to the Bible for an answer, or from a Christian preacher (of whatever denomination), from a creed, or from any systematic theology, or from a Christian radio call-in for advice program.
You need to rely on you to make choices for you and about your life.
One of the interesting things I came across when reading about recovery from Religious Trauma Syndrome was how the expert on the topic, Marlene Winell, discussed how Christianity (or religions in general) can stunt the growth of people by creating a state of Learned Helplessness in them, and by stunting their ability for thinking for themselves by encouraging them to rely on spiritual methods (such as prayer), rather than using their own intellect or life experience, to guide and inform their choices.
Now, Winell did not use the term “Learned Helplessness” when describing this predicament (not that I can recall), but that is what came to my mind as I was reading her comments about this.
People who do leave the faith stop relying on God or the Bible for decision-making, and they are left utterly confused. They are not accustomed to making choices for themselves.
Prior to de-conversion, many believers were in the habit of “turning things over to the Lord” and praying about everything, before making a move in life.
When these individuals leave whatever faith tradition they belong to, some of them say they were left psychologically paralyzed because they had no idea how to make choices for themselves.
They were so accustomed to running every choice through prayer first, waiting for God to show or tell them what to do, or they ran every choice through a “biblical filter,” asking themselves ‘what does the Bible say about thus and so,’ that they were incapable of making decisions.
Even if you are not going to leave the faith, I’m going to suggest that I don’t think that even practicing or currently devout Christians should necessarily run each and every life choice though a biblical filter or through prayer first, though this will probably sound heretical to 90% of any Christians who are reading this.
Even if you are a Christian who does try to filter choices through faith first, that approach does not always work anyway.
Sometimes, God does not answer prayer.
I know in my own life, there is a certain set of issues I’ve prayed and prayed about – even ones involving career choices – and God, if the God of the Bible exists – has not been guiding me, revealing his will for me.
All I’ve gotten is complete silence.
That leaves one with little choice but to decide for one’s self what to do.
In light of all this, if you’re undergoing something in your life, something that is troubling, I think you should consider making up your own mind about what to do about whatever that situation is, rather than expecting God to point the way for you, relying on prayer, the Bible, or what Christian authors, theologians and pastors have to say.
Bear in mind also that some of the Christian input you cherish – from a favorite Christian author or pastor – comes from people who don’t always have your best interests at heart.
John Piper, Mark Driscoll, and other well-known (and even lesser known Christians) don’t care if you’re in an abusive marriage, being abused by a spouse.
Some of these Christians are more vested in up-holding their favorite pet doctrine, in defending their view point or their interpretation of the Bible on divorce or gender roles or what have you, than they are in helping you.
Many of these Christians doling out advice about domestic abuse, divorce, and gender roles and whatever else, don’t care if you are stuck in an abusive or miserable marriage, because they value the institution of marriage more than they do the welfare, health, and sanity of the people who make up the marriage.
Jesus taught against this view, by the way. Jesus said man was not made for the Sabbath, but Sabbath was made for man.
Today, Jesus would reply to all the legalistic “permanence of marriage” Christians, or the “you may not divorce in any case, not even due to abuse or abandonment” proponents that, “Man was not made for marriage, marriage was made for man.”
It’s very unwise to take life advice from people who do not value you or your safety or well-being, but who instead idolize and defend a doctrine and make that doctrine a priority above your well-being.
And most of these Christian yea-hoos cannot even agree with each other on when, if, or how a person may divorce, nor do they agree with each other about many other subjects.
So why waste your time trying to figure out who has the most “biblical” solution?
Use your own mind to decide what is right for you, and run with that.