I was listening to a Christian broadcast the other morning on the way into school and the topic of the sermon was Christians and alcohol.  The preacher took a rather hard stand against alcohol and insisted that the Bible expressly forbids the use of alcohol.  While I don’t agree with him, I was intent be gracious to his points as to why.  That was until he made the statement at the end of his broadcast that he did not want to condemn any Christian who drinks alcohol BUT (yes you knew there was a but coming, right?) you Christian, should really ask yourself does your use of alcohol really glorify God.  If you love God and offer yourself to Him….skreeeeech! My first thought was ‘how is that not condemning’?  That person who may have a glass of wine or beer on occasion, and has a conviction regarding this liberty, has now had their Christian devotion challenged.

It seems to me that taking a position on any point of doctrine can have the affect of justifying one’s need to exert their love for God.  The believer’s love for the Lord should drive them to carefully study the Biblical text and have the desire to understand what it is communicating.  But the landscape of evangelicalism certainly should indicate that there are a variety of differences affecting many areas of Christian doctrine and life.  The list is exhaustive and includes issues such as spiritual gifts, church government, Christian liberties, hermeneutics, sanctification, etc.  There are a variety of reasons that lead to differences, including experience and Church tradition, but are not necessarily born out a lack of honor or love.

Do you not see how this can have an affect of indicating that our positions are those that are right, and if the other person is really wanting to honor God they would see the light too?   We can look at opposing positions as a disregard for affections and deem that if that Christian was really devoted to God, they would not think that, or interpret that passage that way or take that position.

The problem that can work with whatever position is taken

  • If they really loved the Lord, they would not prohibit women from certain leadership positions
  • If they really loved the Lord, they would see that God has ordained a divine order and not twist scripture to suit their purposes
  • If they really loved the Lord, they would not put God in a box and see that all spiritual gifts mentioned are for use today
  • If they really loved the Lord, they would take time to understand the purpose of the gifts in the foundation that was laid in the early church
  • If they really loved the Lord, they would not drink or get tattoos
  • If they really loved the Lord, they would not impose legalistic standards where Christians can have liberties

The list can go on.  But it demonstrates that whatever position we take, particular in areas that are not essential to salvation or historic orthodoxy, we can associate that position with Christian allegiance such that the Christian who takes a differing position must do so because of a lack of devotion. It is not enough to say the other person is wrong but when their allegiance and affection is questioned because they disagree, it casts dispersions on their faith.

Friends, may I suggest this is not a good view to take.  Just because someone takes a differing position does not mean they have any less affections for Christ.   Therefore, I think we need to be careful how we present opposing positions.  For example, I am a complementarian and believe that the Biblical evidence supports male headship in the church and home.  But I have no doubt that there are those who honestly wrestle with the text and come to an egalitarian position and approach scripture with the same devotion as I have.  The fact that they have come to a different position involves interpretive differences but does not suggest that they are seeking to dishonor God or have a lesser love for Christ.

So my appeal is to examine differences on their own merit.  It may be that an interpretive difference is a result of a lack of devotion or spiritual laziness.  It may be that the person representing the opposing position does have an axe to grind and is more interested in self-preservation than what scripture honestly says pointing to a lack of affection.  But that cannot be assigned to every case there is a  difference.  Using language that undermines the other person’s devotion not only does not settle differences, but it does nothing to promote Christian harmony.  Moreover, it can have the detrimental impact of creating a sense of inferiority with the person that disagrees, something that may very well eventually impact their affections for Christ.  Let’s be careful how we treat opposing positions.

C Michael Patton
C Michael Patton

C. Michael Patton is the primary contributor to the Parchment and Pen/Credo Blog. He has been in ministry for nearly twenty years as a pastor, author, speaker, and blogger. Find him on Patreon Th.M. Dallas Theological Seminary (2001), president of Credo House Ministries and Credo Courses, author of Now that I'm a Christian (Crossway, 2014) Increase My Faith (Credo House, 2011), and The Theology Program (Reclaiming the Mind Ministries, 2001-2006), host of Theology Unplugged, and primary blogger here at Parchment and Pen. But, most importantly, husband to a beautiful wife and father to four awesome children. Michael is available for speaking engagements. Join his Patreon and support his ministry

    15 replies to "Condemning Statements and Christian Affections"

    • Laurie M.

      A hearty “amen” to this, sister.

    • Gary Simmons

      Nicely done, sister. God *does* allow us to live lives, and we’ve got to allow for people to be sincere in their devotion despite liberties we disagree with, and despite scruples that we disagree with.

    • Mike

      I would have loved to have read your article, but I noticed by your name you probably didn’t have the proper genitalia so I refused to allow myself to be taught by you. As per scripture.

      Sorry for that, I just couldn’t resist. I agree with what you said whole heartedly. I love how people say that. “I don’t mean to judge anyone with this, BUT…” Then stop right there. People like this probably would have taken issue with Christ when He was on the earth.

    • Ed Kratz

      You know Mike, if you really loved the Lord… 🙂

    • We need to careful of judging other people’s motives. It is often hard not to be confused even about our own motives, at least this has been my experience. We need to deal with the issues and leave the other persons motives to God.

    • Adulcia

      Whatever happened to Grace?

    • John from Down Under

      Here’s my two cents for ‘how we treat opposing positions’

      An Arminian’s tribute to Calvinists

      I am an Arminian who has entered the advanced stage of post-charismatic rehab. In the last three years I have deconstructed my belief system bit-by-bit like a lego set and tried to put it back together again. I questioned everything I believed and why, and have gone through spiritual detox purging my system from all the junk.

      Whilst it has been a work in progress with its fair share of frustration and often pent up anger, I am happy to report that after three years I have come to a position of spiritual freedom, understanding of Christian liberty and a fresh outlook of the finished work of Christ and its implications in my day-to-day life. I am free from the shackles of charismatic legalism and the need to have ‘a word from God’ for everything I decide, looking out for ‘God doing a new thing’ surfing new waves etc.

      I can now begin to ‘celebrate recovery’ (though not by Rick Warren’s definition). I can rest on the sufficiency of the Scriptures, I have a fresh understanding of God’s sovereignty, the substitutionary atonement, and more importantly a clearer understanding of God’s grace and a great hunger for hardcore gospel (what God has done). I have also began to appreciate the importance of healthy hermeneutics and sound exegesis.

      When I try and think how I got to this point, I can only trace it back to my multiple and intense exchanges with Calvinists. God used the people with whom I often disagree the most to challenge and clear my thinking. I have come to truly appreciate the Reformed position though I cannot fully buy into it intellectually speaking. I’ve being studying it top to bottom, left to right, inside out, but I can’t get past a point where I get stuck (save for another post). I’m so close – almost standing outside the door – but not in yet. I’m almost a Calminian!

    • John from Down Under

      An Arminian’s tribute to Calvinists (cont)

      I used to find the smugness of some cyber-Calvinists so repulsive that I vowed to keep away from them until I came across a couple of blogs like Challies and Parchment & Pen where civility is common and ‘opponents’ are respected.

      As a post-Pentecostal I have come to see the futility of the desperately sought after attractional model and this is due to my new appreciation for God’s sovereignty (it really redefines how you do church).

      As this is a testimonial, please resist the temptation for theological rebuttals. I am comfortable in my Arminian skin at the moment (I’m not sinning!) and if I’m wrong, maybe in time with more study the penny will drop.

      So thank you Reformed folks, you have helped me more than what you realize.

    • jim

      John from Down Under

      No rebuttal from me, your journey appears similar to mine. (hard-core legalistic Baptist.) lol !!! I fall into the partly dragging Arminian skin cateragory, with a slight showing of Calvinism

      I always enjoy your comments.

      In christ

    • Ed Kratz

      Jim, I agree; very refreshing comment from John from Down Under

    • John From Down Under

      Thanks Jim and Lisa.

    • Dave B.

      It seems to me that this same sentiment could (should!) be applied to differing political views as well. To borrow a bit from Lisa’s excellent post, “Just because someone takes a differing political position does not mean they have any less affections for the country.”

      Imagine what a difference that kind of attitude would have!

    • […] This also from the Credo House Ministries blog. You don’t have to walk on eggshells, but could you keep off the grass? http://www.reclaimingthemind.org/blog/2010/11/condemning-statements-and-christian-affections/ […]

    • […] few years ago, I wrote this piece here on Parchment and Pen about how we use condemning statements under the rubric of Christian […]

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