Does God Care About Our Doctrinal Disagreements? Apparently Not!
“Maybe it doesn’t matter to Him?” I asked.
My friend looked at me in utter disbelief. We had been discussing the state of the church in its four major divisions: Catholic, Orthodox, Anglican and Protestant. (For the sake of brevity, I have lumped all us Protestants into one category. I don’t have time to list us all!)
“Of course THE Church matters to God”, he replied, “He died to give it birth!
I can’t argue with that!
What perplexes me though, is that there are so many different types of churches. Clearly a lack of unity within THE church has eluded us.
Catholics believe in purgatory, the other three divisions of the church, don’t. That is a pretty significant difference. We can’t all agree on how many books are actually in God’s book. That also seems significant. Some of the churches teach that how one lives has absolutely nothing to do with one’s salvation, while others teach that it has a lot to do with it, still others are somewhere in-between. Maybe it is just how I think about things, but I would have to say this one is a critical difference of doctrine. We have Catholic decrees calling the Reformers heretics, and we have the Reformers labeling the Pope the anti-Christ. Orthodox and Catholics are at odds over one word in the Creed among other substantial issues. We can’t even seem to agree on the purpose of Christianity.
Then we have us Protestants who agree to disagree!
We agree that Jesus Christ died on the cross for “our” sins, but we can’t agree on who is included in “our”. We believe there is such an important and critical thing as the Atonement, but can’t agree on what it actually entails. We believe that people worked miracles, but can’t seem to agree on when or IF that has stopped. We can’t agree on how a church should conduct itself in worship. We can’t agree on something as simple as how a person actually comes to Christ. We can’t agree on what it means to follow Christ. We don’t agree on a host of important issues.
The non-believing world looks at us and sees “Christian” sects that argue amongst themselves and who can’t seem to agree on the essentials. If we can’t agree on what to believe, why should they even think about it? We are divided, pure and simple. Stating otherwise is foolish and wishful thinking.
“Maybe it doesn’t matter to Him?”
Of course, Jesus did pray for “those who would believe in me through their message, that all of them may be one…May they be brought to complete unity to let the world know that you sent me…” (John 17:20-21, 23.) Unity was important enough to pray for on the eve of the crucifixion. It would seem the Father didn’t answer that one in the affirmative. Or am I missing something?
Why would God have allowed that to happen?
Many Protestants believe that around 300AD the real church was infiltrated and perverted by the Catholic Church. As a result, the true Gospel was lost.
If the church is so important to Him, and if the purity of the Gospel and the doctrinal teachings that stem from understanding it correctly matter so much, why didn’t he step in at such a critical moment to stop the hijacking of the Church? Why would God allow the church to embrace a false gospel that would consign its followers to hell? Why didn’t he intervene? Why didn’t he put a quick end to it? I find these questions a bit troubling.
Of Course Catholics believe that the Reformers are the real usurpers. Who can blame them? After all, the church had existed virtually unchanged for 1500 years, until Luther and the young punk come along and want to change the whole thing. It is understandable that they got together at Trent and called the Reformers heretics.
God did not stop the supposed error from taking root
Here’s the compelling issue for me: In both cases, God did not stop the supposed error from taking root. Make no mistake about it; God knew what the result would be of doing nothing to stop these movements. Because of the omniscient nature of God, combined with His foreknowledge, the ensuing doctrinal mess would not have surprised him. He knew it would happen if He did nothing, and he did…. nothing. Think about that!
We do know that if God wanted to step in and crush the rebellions, he could have. He did that very thing during the Exodus when Korah and his crew openly challenged Moses leadership of the young Israel. Read about it in Numbers 16. The gist of it is that God caused the ground to open up and swallow the leaders of the rebellion, their families and everything they owned! Rebellion over. Case closed. God’s leadership of his people settled.
God Foresaw the Pandora’s box of disunity that the Reformation would bring and let it happen
But that is not what he did in 300AD. That is not what he did when the West and East Split. It is not what he did at the beginning of the Reformation. In all three cases, God allowed it to stand. In all three instances, The Father had the opportunity to answer the Son’s prayer for unity, but chose not to. Even when, in the case of the Reformers, God knew that a Pandora’s Box of doctrinal disunity would surely result if He did not act. Still, he refrained.
This brings me back to my conversation with my friend. Most assuredly, the doctrinal differences we have killed others for matter to us. They are a big deal. But do they matter to God?
Before you get the kindling and light the match to burn me alive at the stake for the heretic that I am, realize that I am not saying that God does not care about the Gospel or the church. That is not what I am saying at all. Actually, I don’t know what to think about all this. This is a conversation I have been having, largely in my own mind, for quite some time. I thought I would put it out there for others to interact with and see how you might approach the topic.
Why do you think God did nothing to stop any of these movements?
Read another thought provoking post on worship: God Does Not Need Our Worship…We Need It!
Posted on April 2, 2018, in Christianity, Contemporary Church Culture, Early Church History, Theology and tagged christianity, debates, Doctrine, easter, Protestant, reformation, theology. Bookmark the permalink. 19 Comments.
Good thoughts to ponder here . . . maybe that is why the gate is so “narrow” and so few will enter through it! I for one think the “church” is a mess . . . so many dogma’s, creeds, rituals, do’s and dont’s, must’s, mustn’ts and now throw in tolerance for sin it’s no wonder that there is so much diversion and dissent among believers today. For me it’s all about the grace of my Savior and the faith I have that He died for my sin. No works or rules to follow, just living a life made new in Him and letting the Holy Spirit guide me in His Word. ~ Blessings `
I’ve wondered things like this before, too. It seems a large part of the answer is free will. God didn’t stop Adam from screwing up the world either, nor did He stop the serpent from lying. And neither does God do a re-boot and start over again from scratch. He doesn’t do that to us individually either, when we sin over and over and keep asking for forgiveness over and over (all of us would have been destroyed long ago).
Another aspect on this topic for me—and this is my Catholic side speaking since I can’t be expected to lay that aside—is the question, “What is the Church?”
If the Church is purely a spiritual community of “believers”, then the disunity question gets more complicated and we wonder why God doesn’t pull more tactics like the Korah episode. But if the Church is more than merely a spiritual community and is also a hierarchical, sacramental institution ordained by God, then man can freely choose to be inside of it or outside of it and the answer to disunity becomes a bit more clear. An analogy of the early fathers was to compare the Church with Noah’s Ark. Catholics often view Protestants as floating off on their own hanging onto bits of timber from the Ark. Will they make it? Possibly. But wouldn’t it rather be better to actually be on the Ark?
There have always been people unwilling to be on the Ark and God does not stop them. That’s free will. Reading over the Korah story in Numbers 16, I can’t help but make the connection with those outside the Catholic Church. Korah says to Moses and Aaron, “You have gone too far! For all the congregation are holy, every one of them, and the Lord is among them; why then do you exalt yourselves above the assembly of the Lord?” Isn’t that what people often say about the Catholic Church? “Look at the popes and bishops and priests, many of whom are so sinful. Who are they to exalt themselves above the laity.” But Moses and Aaron did not “exalt themselves” over the people; God ordained those hierarchical offices. As a Catholic I see the “institutional” Church in much the same way; God ordained those hierarchical offices, not men. Such obstinate uplifting of the laity to equality of office strikes me as a desire for the “democracy of heaven”; but Jesus established the “kingdom of heaven.”
Why did God step in and deal with Korah? My first impression is that Korah didn’t try to leave but actively tried to overthrow Moses and Aaron. God probably would have allowed him to leave and do his own thing somewhere. But since Korah attempted a coup, God stepped in to preserve the hierarchical structure He had ordained. That might even be the answer to why God allowed the East-West split and the Reformation; neither tried to forcefully overthrow the pope and set themselves in that office; they simply left to do their own thing. (My analysis here may be way off, but those were thoughts I had while reading the passage.)
I believe God does care about doctrine but I do not believe He forces people into believing.
This article by Fr. Dwight Longenecker seems a good sum up of why a pope is necessary for Christianity; without that office, the only other options are heresy or schism.
Anyway, those are the thoughts of an unqualified layman. And I didn’t originally intend for this to sound so much like proselytizing. It just ended up that way.
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https://polldaddy.com/js/rating/rating.jsGod allowed His prophets ( Isaiah and the rest ) to be killed by His people, the Israelite’s kings and elders. The same is happened to Jesus, His 12 disciples and all the other disciples (in the 1000s), all of them were slaughtered by the papacy popes throughout history. And God didn’t intervene. It is the same today. Definitely these evil popes are anti-Christs and anti-Semitics.
Apostle Peter is not above the rest of the apostles (Acts 15). Peter does not have supreme authority over the rest. The same is for everyone. The Pope or bishop cannot have supreme authority over the rest.
A bishop / elder must be proven blameless (spotless) and they are not the head of the church but are as servants of the church. Only Christ is the head of the church.
And the head of Christ is God, the God in the OT. And all the laws and commandments in the OT is the spoken Word of God. Ultimately it is God who decide and command what the church must do according to His Word. Not the pope or elders, nor any person.
Hosea 8:4 They have set up kings, but not by me: they have made princes, and I knew it not.
Hi Alex, what organized christian group do you feel is best?
What organized christian group do you feel is best?
I prefer the house church where there is no bureaucracy and everyone knows each other.
Acts 20:27 For I have not shunned to declare unto you all the counsel of God.
28 Take heed therefore unto yourselves, and to all the flock, over the which the Holy Ghost hath made you overseers, to feed the church of God, which he hath purchased with his own blood.
29 For I know this, that after my departing shall grievous wolves enter in among you, not sparing the flock.
30 Also of your own selves shall men arise, speaking perverse things, to draw away disciples after them.
31 Therefore watch, and remember, that by the space of three years I ceased not to warn every one night and day with tears.
We know there were many problems in the early church of Corinthian as Apostle Paul had written in all of his epistles, the cause of which is false brotherhood, false apostles and false prophets including ungodly leadership, institution of circular system into the church administration, hierarchy, abused of authority by ungodly leaders, etc.
The Word of God alone is the only authority over the church.
God will choose only godly men to oversee the church.
All of us must test and judge these overseers with the Word of God to proof them.
This applies to small or mega churches. These church issues are never ending unless every Christian are God fearing and are educated of these issues.
Interesting. I use to plant house churches.
“God will choose only Godly men to lead the church.”
I am not sure that is true. Most decisions on who will lead a particular church are made by people. There are lots of pastors and leaders, in every kind of church structure, including house churches, that should never be leaders. If God chose them, why are they there?
My answer is that God leaves the choosing to us, tells us what we should look for, and then gets out of the way.
Leaders. If God chose them, why are they there?
God will choose only Godly men to lead the church but many in the church will persecute God chosen godly men. The people always side the ungodly leaders because many of them loves the world which tantamount to be in enmity with God. This is the reason why all the holy prophets of God were killed by the ungodly people of God, the Israelite. There are many ungodly people of God in the mega church and they will love to choose the ungodly leader. They love and praise the false prophets. Thus most leaders are chosen by men.
Luke 6:26 Woe unto you, when all men shall speak well of you! for so did their fathers to the false prophets.
Hosea 8:4 They have set up kings, but not by me: they have made princes, and I knew it not.
God chosen godly men will always be persecuted.
2 Tim 3:12 In fact, everyone who wants to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted,
God chosen godly men have no place in mega churches where there are full of ungodly people and lovers of the world.
James 4:4 You adulterous people,[fn] don’t you know that friendship with the world means enmity against God? Therefore, anyone who chooses to be a friend of the world becomes an enemy of God.
It sounds like what you are saying is that most leaders of churches are not chosen by God and only a very few are. Of course, you most likely believe that the leaders of your house church were chosen by God the same way most people believe their leaders are God-chosen.
I believe there are many godly leaders chosen by God but many of them if not all will be forced to step down by the majority of ungodly leaders. They have no place in the mega churches where majority are ungodly.
Hi MustFollow, thanks for sharing!
I think that is a good take on this. Korah actively sought to overthrow God’s ordained leadership, at a very critical time we might add. That does give us something to consider. Though Korah certainly had free-will
One could argue, from a Catholic/Orthodox position, that the Reformation caused incredible damage to the gospel witness of the church. Many who would have found the true church have instead found themselves in a pseudo-church. In a very real way, the Reformation was an attack on the Catholic Church. It was an attempt to over throw it and label it as apostate. Yet God did not step in like he did with Korah. I am pretty sure the earth opening up and swallowing Luther and all of his 95 points, his family and everyone who agreed with him would have been enough to stop the Reformation.
You posted an agnostic’s dilemma in a nutshell 😋
Or part of it. You can spin this thought further by asking “Why Muhammad?” – and then “Why all those splinter groups?!”
One can make the case that the original (Judaism) was replaced by the 2.0 version, Christianity, because of Jesus. But then one can also say that the 3.0 replaced Christianity, because of the final prophet Muhammad.
If one doesn’t accept either of those reloads as valid, it’d be back to the Original, meaning we’d have to be Jews. Do we get to be Jews? I thought you have to be born one…
Alright, 2.0 lets everyone play.
So, prophet/son of god/god himself fulfills 1.0, and we’re set.
Now Islam says “Hold up, I fulfill 1 and 2, now we’re all caught up”
I say “You can’t do that” and the Quran says “Oh but I can. If you don’t accept MY fulfilling the older versions, you can’t accept 2.0 fulfilling the older one, either!”
Then I wonder why, in 610 or thereabouts, a bolt of lightning didn’t unceremoniously and effectively prevent that last big split of the Abrahamic faith.
Then I get a migraine 🤒
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“You posted an agnostic’s dilemma in a nutshell”
I never thought of if from that angle, but now that I do, I totally see your point. I think the first step towards faith for an Agnostic is to decide if there is some kind of supernatural being that created our universe: Yes, No. That seems like the easier one to come to, although I am not saying it is easy. After that you have to figure out which god is the real God, and that is a tall order.
“If one doesn’t accept either of those reloads as valid, it’d be back to the Original, meaning we’d have to be Jews. Do we get to be Jews? I thought you have to be born one…”
Well, you could convert and become Jewish! 🙂
After that you have to figure out which god is the real God, and that is a tall order.
It is 😖
On the one hand, it does give you a certain “Out of the box” perspective.
You almost inevitably see the broader picture and the connections between myriads of faiths (possibly suggesting a common denominator?) – but also the glaring inconsistencies and the unholy (pun intended) mess.
Then you have the human pitfall. The instinct to join a tribe that is familiar, and shares your values/opinions.
Some religions seem nice, others are outright appalling. Some have splinter groups that are nice, and others that make me run for the hills. I could, theoretically, just pick one I like. Lots of people do. But is religion really a buffet like that? I’ll have the shrimp, no lettuce, and hold the eternal damnation?
Would that work, would ‘close enough’ and ‘at least she tried’ count? Or would seeking my own comfort, rather than the actual divine being, count against me?
Is religion supposed to be like sliding into a bubble bath, spending time with like-minded people, making music and being nice to one another? Is my ‘liking’ a faith proof that I am called to it? Or am I deceiving myself out of laziness?
Or is it supposed to be hard, challenging, an eternal quest for what is right and good, something that pushes your boundaries and forces you to face the scary world outside your bubble, your tribe? Is the road supposed to be a tough climb, or am I again just going with what I think might lead to greater understanding?
And how am I supposed to figure it out?
Well, you could convert and become Jewish.
Ah. Like Liz Taylor? I thought you can’t just walk up and say “I want to be Jewish”, you have to either be born one or at least marry one.
And they don’t let you get away with “I believe this now” either, you have to study and pass tests?
I could be wrong, my knowledge of Judaism is fragmentary at best.
But… no shrimp. Not if you’re serious about it.
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There is an old saying, and it is funny because it rings kind of true: “Church would be great if it wasn’t for all the people!”
You have people that will scare the hell out of you outside of faith communities. They’re inside faith communities too. Don’t let anyone try and fool you on that one! To be fair, I am pretty sure that holds true for the Girl Scouts, the Boy Scouts and any Fraternal Order of Whatever!
Shrimp is out of the question if you convert to Judaism. Although you could sneak some now and then and just apologize for it!
False doctrines and transgressions of the law will kill us.
2 John 1:9 Whosoever transgresseth, and abideth not in the doctrine of Christ, hath not God. He that abideth in the doctrine of Christ, he hath both the Father and the Son.
I imagine for a similar reason he did not interfere when Roma beat Barcelona 3-0 last night and looked on while all those little kiddies were bawling their eyes out.
Or why he is capable of acting in some cases after intercessory prayer yet cannot seem to regenerate a limb via the same method. Although spiders seem to do all right in this department. Maybe they have a connection via the web?
Why he cannot step in and cure cancer, yet is very, very good at finding car keys, a desperately needed parking space, and new jobs for certain ”special ” Christians.
I dunno, maybe he just doesn’t really give a damn? Or perhaps … he isn’t real?
“I dunno, maybe he just doesn’t really give a damn? Or perhaps … he isn’t real”
Surely you jest? 🙂 Seriously, of course those are other possibilities.
Well you believe Yahweh is real? Why?
But I think the main point hasn’t been addressed by any comments yet.
This cannot be fully explained by the success of an organization.
Yes, one of my favorite passages in Acts is from Gamaliel
38 Therefore, in the present case I advise you: Leave these men alone! Let them go! For if their purpose or activity is of human origin, it will fail. 39 But if it is from God, you will not be able to stop these men; you will only find yourselves fighting against God.”
First, Pretty good advice not to burn people at the stake. RCC & Reformers were both guilty of murder so this Idea of glorious Reformation is a joke. But anyway, cults can succeed unfortunately & so did Islam. I think the only thing you can say is demons still have power & influence so Groups who are diametrically opposed to the Truth can succeed.
But here’s the kicker.
And God, who knows the heart, showed His approval by giving the Holy Spirit to them, just as He did to us. 9He made no distinction between us and them, for he cleansed their hearts by faith.
So if God gave them the same gift as He gave us who believed in the Lord Jesus Christ, who was I to hinder the work of God
Now, this destroys any Catholic argument that they’re the Only Church. We all know what the voice of the Spirit sounds like & we Non catholics hear that whey we talk to each other & we also know by the truth that when I say I know, *actually *Know, for a fact that Jesus is exactly who he says he is–that is spoken by God’s Spirit. Therefore, it seems God has made no distinction between a catholic & me.
Are the fruits of the Spirit there? Or is your group a band of *Accusers? Like the liberals, these internet calvinists, the young earthers, the true churches, KJames only… you know…. Losers:)
Furthermore, if the argument is made that we are somehow less, all anyone has to do is taste the fruit of RCC and claim child rape, homosexuality, murder and corruption, along with magical thinking, worship of saints and all the rest can possibly demonstrate superiority.
Has not God Himself already settled the question by giving the Holy Spirit to all who believe? We all know the numbers. So my point is why can’t we all just, to best of our ability, stand down. Strip away from our statement of beliefs things like Calvinism Arminism Sprinkling Dates Rapture End Times etc… And teach the simplicity of Christ? It’s Lust. It’s, I know more… I’m more spiritual. It’s sin. (RCC is another story.. They need to almost dismantle to get to the simplicity of Christ)
Now, obviously God has allowed denominations by pouring out the Spirit in the manner he has chosen. So maybe, as has been accomplished many times in the past, the Lord is bringing forth Good out of what is essentially evil( denominationalism is not only from doctrinal disputes but from pride, selfishness, lust, coveting power, and even actual false Christians gaining leadership) using the opportunity in our diverse modern world to draw in and accommodate all cultures and styles as long as the orthodox linchpins of Christianity are present. I don’t know, but one thing is clear–Christ is in control and knows who are His and I have to believe He wants us to stop arguing over what amounts to works in many cases and tone down the attitude perpetuated by the faction mentality.