Fight Valiantly! Agreeing to Disagree?
Posted by Lee Gatiss, 16 Apr 2019
As we continue to look at what it means to fight valiantly against the world, the flesh, and the devil, we consider today the tricky area of compromise. Watch the video podcast of today's post on our YouTube channel.
There are some things on which we must not agree to disagree. The doctrine of the Trinity is one such area, of course; the Athanasian Creed says that without this doctrine we “shall perish everlastingly.” Historically, it hasn’t only been abstract theological questions that counted as heresies either: Thomas Aquinas put denial of the Trinity on the same level as saying sex outside of marriage is not a sin; affirming either of these would make someone a heretic, he said.
The Bible also speaks of certain sins as able to exclude us from the kingdom of God if we indulge in them (1 Corinthians 6:11; Galatians 5:19-21; Ephesians 5:5). Surely to redefine those sins as things which are actually good and appropriate for Christians, would be a salvation issue, one on which our eternal destiny turns? Tolerance of error here would not be “wisely allowing a diversity of interpretations in a disputed area” as some might say, a sign of Anglicanism’s supposedly secure ability to embrace a diversity of views. It would not be spiritually loving or pastorally accommodating: it would be soul-destroying. We should no more tolerate this than we would tolerate a drop or two of poison in our afternoon tea.
We ought also to refuse to have partnership or fellowship with the world and its ways. Charles Spurgeon applies this well to all Christians, not just clergy, when he speaks in an exposition of Ephesians 5:11 of refusing to consent, commend, or connive at sin. He says:
“But we may have fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness by consenting to them, and conniving at them. For instance, you live in a house where there is a great deal of evil going on, and you yourself keep clear of it. So far so good; but you never protest against it, you have been altogether silent about it… You do disapprove of the evil; in secret, you even pray against it; but nobody knows that it is so, the wrongdoers especially are not aware that it is so; in fact, they fancy that, as they treat leniently your pursuit of religion, though they think it cant, so you treat leniently their pursuit of sin, though in your heart of hearts you believe that pursuit to be evil. Our Lord commands us to clear ourselves of all conniving at sin—not with harshness, not with denunciation, and in an unkind spirit—but with a mild, gentle, but still powerful, honest rebuke… A few more loving home testimonies for God, and who can tell but that the husband may be converted, and the son may be led to the Savior? But for want of this personal witness bearing among Christians, I am afraid that the Church of God comes to be paralyzed, and much of her power and usefulness is taken from her. Do not let us connive or wink at sin in any case whatever. Far be it from us also ever to have fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness by commending or applauding sin, or seeming to agree with it.”
Questions for Reflection
1. Why are we tempted to say “let’s agree to disagree” or to compromise about the major issues in church life today?
2. Why is it not loving to tolerate a diversity of views on some subjects?
3. How can we better avoid consenting to or conniving at sin?
Find all the 2019 Lent videos and blogposts here.
Lee Gatiss is Director of Church Society and the editor of Gospel Flourishing in a Time of Confusion, the latest book from Church Society.
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