October 12, 2017 | by: Chris Kiiskinen | 0 comments
I recently engaged with another Pastor on this subject when he wrote, “The biggest thing missing from most faith communities today, both conservative and liberal, is thought diversity.” He wrote that without diverse thinking there is no “real growth [or] true love.”
While I agreed with some of the things he was saying, I had to disagree with him on this point pretty strongly. Yet, his thoughts are echoed by many in our culture and in some churches.
My first point of disagreement was with his conclusion that diversity of thought is the “biggest thing missing” in Christian communities. From both an experiential, as well as a biblical, perspective, I don’t think there is any question that the biggest thing missing is holiness.
Being righteous and Christ-like in all that we say and do is what we lack most. But that is a subject for another article.
My second point of disagreement was with the idea that we somehow need diversity in how we think about things, and that without that, we can’t experience real growth of love.
That is what I want to address in this article. As I mentioned, I don’t agree with him on his point. Do I mean that we should just all be programmed like robots to all think the same way? No. Do I mean that we are all to just do whatever the Pastor says? No. Do I mean that we should “check our brains at the door” and not engage in actual thinking? No. So why would I object to his point? It’s simply because of Scripture!
Our culture today is quite vocal about the ideas of tolerance and diversity, even though it’s not actually lived out in the ways it’s spoken about. This cultural thought has made its way into churches in a number of ways. While the Bible speaks about these topics, our culture doesn’t add anything to the discussion that is better than what Scripture teaches, and in some ways, it will be in direct opposition to what the Bible says.
For example, the Bible teaches that the church will be diverse in that it is made up of people from every tribe, tongue, people and nation (Revelation 5:9). The Bible teaches that God’s people will have a diversity of gifts that He gives them for the building up of the body (1 Corinthians 12, Ephesians 4:11-16).
We also see diversity of roles that God gives to men and women, parents and children, including different roles in the church in accordance with God’s gifting. Scripture does give us room for diversity of preferences (Romans 14:5-6), but Scripture does not teach that we are to have diversity in theology and how we think about certain things. Rather, it teaches that we are to strive to understand the scriptures correctly so that we can best understand the fullness of the Gospel and its implications in our lives.
Think about in this way for a moment...I assume that you would agree that in Heaven, we will all have perfect doctrine and that we will have no diversity of thought about it. If that is true, should we not understand that in our life now and seek to always be moving toward that goal?
Becoming more Christ-like would include thinking more and more like him as well. And though we are diverse in many ways, ultimately the thoughts and actions of Christians should be becoming more and more alike and less and less diverse as we collectively become more like him.
The Pastor I was engaging with about this was arguing for more diverse thinking to be in the church in order to strengthen the church. When I asked for his biblical support for this idea, he could only point to Romans 14:1 where Paul says we are not to dispute over opinions like whether it’s okay to eat meat or if we should only eat veggies. But in Romans 14, Paul begins by stating that it is the man who is “weak in faith” who eats only vegetables, but that he is not to be disputed with, but welcomed.
This is similar to Paul’s writing to the Corinthians as well. In both letters, he is, at the same time, telling one man that he is in fact, weak in faith, implying he needs to grow and become stronger in faith. And he is telling the one who is stronger, or more mature in his faith, how to treat the weaker one. Should the stronger one just leave the weaker one where he is? No. He should seek to help the weaker brother learn and grow so that he is no longer weak. Therefore, their thinking, though diverse at a point in time, becomes more the same as growth occurs in the weaker one.
It’s the same principle that Paul uses when he talks about milk and meat. When a baby, we need milk and can’t handle meat, but he also rebukes those who stay with milk when, after a time, they should have grown up to eat meat. Paul isn’t teaching that we ought to strive to have diversity of thought, but rather that we do have that because we are not yet where we ought to be.
In light of that, we should welcome one another, not cause one another to stumble, not judge one another, but we should strive together to grow. Yet God is merciful to us that even when we are weak, He loves us. But He still desires for us to mature and grow in our understanding and to strive to be united. And while we struggle with those things, our primary focus, as Paul makes clear, is that everything we do is to be unto the Lord, seeking to please Him and not ourselves.
Scripture calls us to have one mind (Philippians 1:27), to transform our thoughts to what is righteous (Romans 12:2). The Bible tells us to set our minds on things above (Colossians 3:2), not on earth. We are instructed to think about things that are true, honorable, just, pure, lovely, gracious, excellent and worthy of praise (Philippians 4:8).
Paul warns that we can be led astray by our thoughts (2 Corinthians 11:3). The writer of Hebrews (in 4:12) tells us that it is the word of God that pierces into our thoughts, discerning them, which should teach us that our thoughts about doctrine should be informed by and conformed to Scripture. The Bible has much to say about how we think, which in turn, affects the way we act.
But “thought diversity” is not something we see taught in the Scriptures, as a means of grace, growth or truth. The Bible speaks often about things like...conforming our thoughts (Romans 12:2), taking every thought captive (2 Corinthians 10:5), those with another gospel to be accursed (Galatians 1:8-9), we are to grow in unity and knowledge so we are not fooled by false doctrine (Ephesians 4:13-14)...I could cite many more verses.
Scripture also says that real growth and true love don’t come by having diverse thinking, but rather by... “speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ, from whom the whole body, joined and knit together by every joint with which it is supplied, when each part is working properly, makes bodily growth and up builds itself in love.”
Growth and love come from each person ministering to one another and speaking truth with one another. The implication is that we know what truth is and if in any way we think incorrectly, we are lovingly corrected by one another. Not that we’ll perfectly know every point of doctrine, but that we are seeking to be united and to be in agreement as best as we can.
As I look at Scripture, Jesus warns us that a house divided cannot stand, so division is not a good thing in that context. Paul tells us that we are to take “every thought captive to the obedience of Christ.” This doesn’t allow for us to seek diversity in thinking, but rather conformity to Him with our thoughts.
In 1 Corinthians 1, Paul speaks against division amongst true believers, but then writes in chapter 11 that he knows there must be division in order to know who is true or not. So sometimes diversity will be part of how we distinguish true believers from false ones. Those who are in Christ ought to be united and seek after that.
In fact, Paul taught that in Ephesians 4, we are to strive to maintain the unity that we have in Christ. Jesus even prayed for all Christians in John 17, that we would be one just as he and the Father are one. No doubt, they have perfect unity in their thoughts and that is what he would have for us as well.
So as we live in a world where diversity is praised and, in some cases, even lifted up as if it’s an idol to be worshiped, do not give in to worldly thinking nor the ways that the enemy tries to deceive us.
Though the world may praise the idea of diversity of thought, the Bible does not do that. Rather, we are to seek to have the mind of Christ and conform our thoughts to his. He has provided us each other, a very diverse group of people, to help accomplish this task and so we are to use the good aspects of our diversity to build up our unity...especially as it pertains to how we think and build our world view.
As you think about this, ask yourself how your thoughts are being formed. Are you, because of your thoughts, contributing to the unity of the body in building one another up, or are you bringing division to the body and tearing down?
Are your thoughts seeking to exalt Christ more, or are they centered on something or someone else being exalted? May all of us seek to be united in all of the ways that are most pleasing to Christ, including how it is that we think about things. To be sure, Christians will struggle with this until we are all with Jesus.
We will have some disagreements about various points of interpretation, or we may not agree on the exact meaning of something in Scripture, but our goal should always be to continue growing in truth and conforming ourselves to truth.
The tip of the iceberg has been touched upon...I encourage you to think more about this. May the Lord bless us all as we, in our weakness, seek to be more like him in thought, word and deed and may the Holy Spirit help us to grow together as the united body of Christ!
Chris Kiiskinen is a Pastor at Grace Bible Church