“AND” Is Not a Dirty Word
January 7, 2019
Toby Grater

Don’t we love to see the world in black and white? Either this way OR that way. Christian OR not Christian. Agrees with me OR doesn’t.

No one can argue that black is white or someone is Christian and not Christian. That’s illogical – or insane. So count me in the logical camp. I believe that right and wrong are painted in black and white.

Here’s where it gets sticky:
Who says what is right and what is wrong? Where does the infallibility rest?

Image result for right wrongIn American society today, the red states are convinced the blue states are wrong. The blue states believe the red states are wrong with equal fervor. As a matter of fact, each side is convinced of its own absolute righteousness. The opposite side is thus seen as being absolutely wrong. What’s more, that opposite side must be eradicated because its mere existence is a blot of the fabric of the universe and offends the sensibilities of the righteous side.

Think about the so-called snowflakes on the current college campus. They are so sensitive to any opposition that they need “safe spaces” on campus to which they can retreat and not hear or think about things they deem offensive. They are as delicate a snowflakes and will melt away if touched. HooBoy. They’re “touched” all right.

This kind of absolutism has now almost completely permeated America. Worse, it’s found throughout Christ’s church in America. There seem to be fewer and fewer grownups who accept the idea that their ideas are not infallible. This is sort of to be expected in politics but in Christ’s church? Shouldn’t we know better?

There is only ever One Infallible Arbiter and that is God Himself. Often said, less often heeded.

What has happened to Christian charity that holds to the idea of “AND?”

For instance, I read and interpret the Scriptures in a way that convinces me to practice credo-baptism. I consider myself a Baptist. I also consider myself a Christian in that I hold to salvation by grace through faith. That makes me Baptist AND Christian. At least, I think so.

What of the Presbyterian? He reads the Scriptures in a way that convinces him to baptize his infant children into the Covenant. If he also holds to salvation by grace through faith that makes him Presbyterian AND Christian. At least, he thinks so.

Are we … can we … both be right? Well, right about the “Christian” part but not about the baptism part. Can we have a spirited debate over our positions on the ordinance of baptism? Of course, and we should. Should we go to war over that? I think not. Should I anathematize all Presbyterians? Sure. ‘Lil ole me is going to throw Jonathan Edwards over the side! Ridiculous. And Presbyterians are going to boil Charles Spurgeon in oil?

I am all in favor of exercising individual judgment and discernment. We do so when deciding tobe Baptist and not Presbyterian or Democrat and not Republican. Yet along with our judgment comes the responsibility to discuss our differences with those who hold the other view. Discuss, not necessarily shout. Exhort, not necessarily condemn.

As mentioned above, we Christians tend toward the black and white because much of God’s Word is black and white. In the Big Ten there is no wiggle room to interpret “Thou shalt not” in any other way. But (at the risk of sounding satanic) did God really say, “Thou shalt be Baptist?”

I am a post-millennial Baptist and tend to hang around with other post-mil Baptists more than those of other persuasions. There are plenty of dispensational, Presbyterian, amillennial, and even (gasp!) Methodist and charismatic folks in my circle of friends, too. Many of their positions I heartily disagree with. But they love Christ and are doing good works prepared beforehand.

Building up the Church is much more important than my harping on them about doctrines on which I think they’re wrong. We’ve had the discussions; they didn’t persuade me and I didn’t persuade them. Okay, let’s have a cup of coffee, sister. I may not hang out with these folks, but you might and that’s perfectly okay with me. Should I brow-beat you about that? That’s your business, not mine.

When I personally decide who is allowed to associate with whom, when I personally decide who must repent of what, I am on dangerous ground. I, personally, am not the Church which is the sole institution on earth with the power of excommunication. It’s not for me to bind someone else’s conscience.

So can’t we all exercise some mature Christian judgment (grace, even), take a deep breath, and relax a little? Can’t we have reasonable dialogue; answer a respectful question with respect? Can’t we acknowledge that someone with whom we disagree is Christian AND ___________?

Much of Jesus’ dialogue with His opponents was not as much to convince them of His righteousness as it was to convince those looking on. Unlike ourselves, His logic and arguments were unassailable and His witness was pure. We must recognize that our logic is not perfect and sometimes downright self-serving – a lousy witness to those looking on and not a pleasant aroma to our sovereign God.

If in our arguments we must attribute ill motives to those with whom we disagree, or engage in public condemnation, disparagement, denigration, slander and libel, or point fingers and shout and scream, then it’s very likely that we’ll receive treatment in kind.

Or be ignored so as not to add to the stench.

~John Bingaman, January 2019

Article originally appeared on Mid-Atlantic Reformation Society (http://www.thinkandreform.org/).
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