In this politically correct America, where all things are ‘supposed’ to be tolerated, we have lost the attitude of ‘agree to disagree’. Have you ever noticed when watching the talking heads on the political shows or listening to political radio, people are constantly trying to convince you they are right and you are wrong. We have lost our willingness to ‘agree to disagree’! Everyone, and I mean everyone will discuss, debate, and even degrade one another in an attempt to win the argument, therefore having the satisfaction of knowing I was wrong and they are right. In the old days people could have a common sense dialogue about issues and still be amicable. These days it really comes down to people thinking ‘if you disagree with me, you are wrong and a stupid fool who does not deserve to voice your opinions’.
I know I sound like an old timer (“that’s pretty good Johnny, but that ain’t the way I hear’d it”) when I say it’s not like the old days of people sitting around with others of differing views, discussing the issues, and then going out for pizza afterwards. We are so sensitive and ‘intolerant’ of opposing view points we take the views and opinions of others as a personal attack if they disagree with us. People get mean, nasty, sometimes violent and resort to name calling instead of having a substantive and intelligent conversation.
I believe this attitude has made its way from the political realm into the theological realm. I agree with an old saying, “in essentials, unity . . in non-essentials, liberty . . . and in all things, charity”. To me one thing this saying means is we need to be able to distinguish the essentials from the non-essentials in theology. We are having way too many battles over the wrong things, no wonder nonbelievers don’t see much attractive in Christianity. Don’t misunderstand me, there are essentials to Christianity that are non-negotiable: the Deity of Jesus, the Trinity, Salvation being by Grace Alone through Faith Alone, the Virgin Birth of Jesus, the divine inspiration of Scripture, and others. There are, however, some non-essentials: the exact breakdown of eschatology (doctrine of Last Things or future events), church government, which songs to sing in a church service (hymns or choruses), which version of the Bible to use (KJV, NIV, NASB, NLT, ESV, ad infinitum ad nauseum), etc. But many well meaning, truly dedicated followers of Our Lord Jesus Christ have taken a stand on issues that just are not essential.
When I taught High School Bible a while ago I received complaints from a parent that was angry with me that I was presenting the various main views of the book of Revelation instead of picking one view (obviously it was insisted that it be THEIR view) and just teaching it. To me this is a non-essential. Do not misunderstand what I am saying! I believe the Bible teaches that Jesus will return to set up His kingdom; sin, death, hell, and Satan will be banished forever; God will be vindicated; all wrongs will be righted; and GOD WINS!!! What I am saying is we often get lost in the Pre-Trib, Post-Trib, Mid-Trib, Pre-Mill, Post-Mill, A-Mill, Preterist, Historicist, Idealist, Futurist views and will fight to the death for that particular view when in all honesty God just is not that specific about exactly how these things will happen.
I have encountered way too many people in my life that stress the wrong things. We are so focused on winning the argument that we lose track of the Gospel. Some cannot see their way to even listen to other viewpoints and strive to find some common ground on which to build a healthy ‘Christian Family’ relationship because they are too busy trying to be the winner of the argument and they have the Bible and God all figured out. I would like to encounter believers that disagree with me on non-essential doctrines, have some healthy intellectual dialogue, and still be friendly to one another – agree to disagree.
So go out and debate and discuss, but only stand firm on the essentials of the faith and be nice to one another.