Once a month, I get a “news journal” in the mail from our Baptist state convention. There’s always a theme, usually related to a hot button issue or current debate.
This month, the topic is Genesis chapters 1-11. In case you’re not familiar, these chapters cover the creation story, Adam and Eve, the fall of man, the flood, Noah’s ark, and the tower of Babel. Classic stuff, right? That’s like the Bible’s Greatest Hits: Volume 1. So, the debate (and it’s not a new one) is whether these chapters record literal, historical events about the origins of the world and mankind, or are they fictional stories from an ancient civilization who was trying to make sense of their world.
I’m not going to tell you what to believe- there are intelligent, well-read, brilliant people on both sides of the debate. But I do want to say this:
I think you and I can disagree about some issues and still both escape hell.
Too often in theological debates, we turn minors into majors, molehills into mountains, and teddy bears into blood thirsty gorilla dogs. We leave no room for compromise, and demand that an extreme stance must be taken. For example, the articles in this month’s publication mention a seminar titled “Foundation or Fairy Tale? Preaching Genesis 1-11.” The implication there is that these chapters must be literal and therefore are pivotal to the entire gospel story, or they are silly, make believe bedtime fodder, on par with Hansel and Gretel. Either/Or. One or the other. There is no middle ground.
Another example: One professor says that we must understand these chapters to be literal because “if we don’t get the doctrine of creation right, then we’re probably not going to get anything else right.” In other words, “My opinion on this is right. Therefore, any other interpretation is wrong. And if you’re wrong about this, you’re probably wrong about everything.”
So divisive. Such a huge leap to be make. “If you’re wrong (you disagree with me) about this one, uncertain, highly debated issue, you probably don’t understand the gospel at all.”
Christian brothers and sisters, I implore you: Calm down.
There are some issues that are non-negotiable to our faith, (Jesus Christ is the son of God. His death on the cross atoned for sin. Anyone who puts their faith in him will be saved.) but there are countless areas and issues that we just can’t be certain about, and we need to be willing to show grace in those areas. Or, as the saying goes, “In essentials, unity. In non-essentials, liberty. In all things, charity.”
Stand your ground on the issues that are essential. Lovingly agree to disagree on the ones that aren’t.
And in all things, stop yelling at people.