We’ve been called a lot of names: pagans, snakes, wolves in sheep’s clothing. And that’s by fellow Christians! Why is there so much friendly fire within Christianity? Why can’t we all just get along? Doctrinal differences have turned into a turf war and the Church has been causing its own casualties.
I love the approach C.S. Lewis offers in his classic book, Mere Christianity. He envisions “mere” Christianity as a hall with many rooms that represent the various denominations. His goal is simply to welcome his audience into the hall and they can choose a room on their own. That’s our goal too.
This doesn’t mean we don’t have opinions on which doctrines are correct. We certainly do – click around on our articles and you’ll find out. It also doesn’t mean all viewpoints are equally valid. They aren’t. But even if you adamantly hold a particular view, it is critical to teach that there are different interpretations available within orthodox Christianity. The following all-too-common scenario illustrates why:
A young woman heads off to college. She was taught her entire life that the young earth view of creation was the only true interpretation of Genesis 1 and anything else is unbiblical and heretical. In her freshman science class, she becomes convinced that the earth is billions of years old instead of 6,000, which causes great tension between her Christian convictions and her newly-formed belief. And since she was never taught about the other possible interpretations of the creation account, she concludes that the Bible is unreliable and therefore Christianity is false.
Now, I am not criticizing young earth creationism here. I’m lamenting the lack of education of differing views within Christianity. Instead of abandoning her faith, this woman could have shifted to a different interpretation of Genesis 1. Again, only one interpretation can be right – and it may not be mine – but we need to teach that there are other options available.
The irony is that the Church wants secular education to “teach the controversy” when it comes to evolution – to examine its problems along with the merits of Intelligent Design. But we refuse to educate our own regarding disputed doctrines within Christendom, such as age of the earth, predestination & election, end times, etc. Isn’t that blatant hypocrisy, one of the prime reasons why people reject Christianity?
Does this mean we can disagree on any Christian doctrine? No. There are some essentials that we must affirm to call ourselves Christian, such as the deity of Christ and Jesus’ death and resurrection. But we need to distinguish between the essentials and non-essentials, to cling faithfully to the former and allow disparity in the latter. Which leads to my last point:
The Church is way too divided. And I don’t mean along denominational lines; I mean in spirit. In John 17, prior to his trial and execution, Jesus prayed to the Father that all believers would be one as He and the Father are one. And we’re failing miserably. (FYI, the Trinity? Essential.) We are so ungracious and uncharitable towards fellow Christians who don’t hold to the same interpretation on matters that are of non-essential status. In a day and age when the Church is being attacked from every side, we need a united front more than ever.
It is imperative for the Church to accept a “mere” model of Christianity. I’m not asking you to compromise you own particular view, only to be more charitable towards those who hold to a different one. And if you won’t listen to me, maybe you’ll listen to C.S. Lewis:
When you have reached your own room, be kind to those who have chosen different doors, and to those who are still in the hall. If they are wrong they need your prayers all the more; and if they are your enemies, then you are under orders to pray for them. That is one of the rules common to the whole house.
 Lewis, C. S. Mere Christianity. San Francisco: HarperSanFrancisco, 2001, xv.
 Ibid., xvi.