“Oneness” and “unity” are such wonderful words, but what does it look like and how are we to attain it? Those questions believers have pondered for centuries. For me, there was a time, after years of schooling and training, that I did not question a lot of things. In a very real sense, although not intentional, I lived within a theological bubble so to speak. The only people I really discussed Scripture with, other than those I was attempting to convert, were people of “like precious faith” and in many respects, “like precious opinion.” Arrogantly, I must confess, I viewed believers with significant theological differences in one of two ways: 1) either they did not respect Scripture, or 2) they were just ignorant of Scripture. Either way, in my view, they weren’t where they needed to be.
As far as mile markers are concerned, fast-forwarding ten years or so from my first work, things started to blur for me when a close friend, whom I deeply respect for his intellect and honesty, began to rethink some things, becoming less traditional. I don’t recall what the first topic was, but I do remember that my attempts to bring him back into the inner circle with the same old arguments were pointless. I say “pointless,” not because of his unwillingness to listen or refusal to submit to God, but because they didn’t prove as much as I thought they did.
One day, in particular, comes to mind. A mutual preacher friend, with whom we went to college, posted on his blog how hand-clapping in worship was an addition to Scripture. And, with it being an “addition,” those who participate in such were committing a sin comparable to that of Nadab and Abihu (Lev. 10:1-2). As you know, the Lord consumed these two men because they offered up a “strange” or unauthorized fire. This preacher’s conclusion, I believe, is wrong on many levels. First, there is the matter of legislation – the way God spoke concerning the specifics of worship in the earthly centered Old Testament era is far different from how He chose to approach such in the New Testament. Second, it looks as though Nadab and Abihu were being groomed for the High Priesthood, being sons of Aaron, so they clearly knew the specifics of what God desired under that law. Thus, their sin was wilful. Third, from the context, it looks as though they were drunk. So they, being emboldened by alcohol, highhandedly entered into God’s holy presence doing what they knew was wrong and God took their lives. To say that this is “equal” to someone clapping in praise to God today is a huge stretch in my judgment.
Anyway, what really sparked my critical thinking was a post in the comments section by a preacher named Al Maxey. Maxey, who preaches for an a cappella congregation in New Mexico, asked this question (and I paraphrase): “If clapping is wrong, where is that in Scripture? If to please God you have to figure it all out, where is the list?” He then encouraged our friend to provide that elusive list–the definite, complete list of everything a person must get right in order to be saved. Of course, he didn’t provide it; nobody ever does. In fact, nobody can.
That point by Maxey, concerning “the list” set my mind to thinking. Where is that list? Does such a list even exist? If we had “the list,” our quest for unity would be so simple – we could just compare everyone’s actions and beliefs to “the list.” Then I realized that I do have “a list” as does every religious person I know. However, our lists are not the same. Here’s the question that kept surfacing in my mind: Why is it that good-willed Bible students come up with contrasting views – different lists? Whether it’s clapping, the war question, who can and cannot marry, religious holidays, communion cups, last things, para-church organizations or a topic as practical as modesty, there are scores of differences among sincere, informed Bible students. If to be truly one we had to have the “same list,” we are all in deep trouble. Thank God there’s a better way! More to come.
You are loved!