Those of us who believe in adherence to sound Biblical doctrine frequently endure accusations of divisiveness. The majority of present day evangelicals believe that unity among Christians requires an abandonment of doctrine to the degree that salvation and discipleship revolve around a “Jesus” who conforms to individual preferences.
Those of us who stand up for doctrinal purity quickly learn that doing so invites censure. We learn that we must keep our convictions to ourselves, lest we cause “division.” We dare not question women leading worship, church growth strategies, contemporary music that lacks theological content, contemplative prayer or replacing Bible Studies with small groups that focus on subjective impressions of how Scripture speaks to each member of the group. Standing for truth, in an increasing number of evangelical churches, means that we cause division.
Yet Paul, who wrote most of the New Testament epistles, saw division very differently than 21st Century evangelicals see it. Consider this quote:
Paul regards divisiveness as those who depart from sound doctrine. Doctrine is not the cause of disunity, departure is. ~Carl Trueman
Responsible reading (not to mention study) of Paul’s epistles bear out Trueman’s point. The apostle wrote several of his epistles (most of them, actually) with the purpose of clearing up doctrinal error and preserving correct teaching. As a matter of fact, right doctrine meant so much to Paul that he refused to tolerate those who would corrupt it with human philosophies. He furthermore warned church members to reject anyone who deliberately and persistently deviated from the truth.
17 I appeal to you, brothers, to watch out for those who cause divisions and create obstacles contrary to the doctrine that you have been taught; avoid them. 18 For such persons do not serve our Lord Christ, but their own appetites, and by smooth talk and flattery they deceive the hearts of the naive. ~~Romans 16:17-18 (ESV)
Notice that the divisions Paul condemns thwart the doctrine that he and the other apostles taught. He never targeted Christians who stood for God’s Word in opposition to attempts to dilute or distort it to suit their own agendas. As he saw it, the Body of Christ could only experience true unity by teaching and obeying the doctrines given by the Lord Jesus Christ and His apostles. Those who watered down those doctrines caused disruption in the church.
And today, the very people who plead for “unity” seek to erode theological truths around which Bible-believing Christians should unite. Instead of blindly accepting repetitious “praise” songs that focus on human feelings rather than the Lord’s character and work, for example, we should courageously point out how these songs deviate from Scripture. Similarly, instead of embracing pragmatic church growth strategies, we should encourage our pastors to preach expository, verse-by-verse sermons so that the Word will produce faith that results in genuine conversions.
Those of us who insist on doctrinal purity do so because we love the Lord. We want to see His church united around His Word, forsaking subjective interpretations of it in favor of understanding it properly and obeying it faithfully. We grieve when people deviate from the clear teaching of Scripture to follow evangelical fads, agreeing with Carl Truman that true division comes though such people.