Putting Denominational Disagreements in Perspective for the World and the Church

In a world in which the standard for disagreement is tolerance, we are called not just to tolerate each other, but to love each other deeply, from the heart.

J. Warner Wallace tackled the question, Do Denominational Disagreements Falsify Christianity? recently from an apologetic angle. A common challenge to Christianity is that we don’t all agree. If Christianity is true, why so much disagreement? Why so many denominations?

I like the way Wallace tackles the issue. He starts by observing that truth is often complex, and finite beings such as ourselves often disagree on the complexities. This is true not just in Christianity, but even in science. Wallace lists some of the various “theoretical camps” on the origin of the universe and the various types of atheists who don’t agree with each other in their atheism.

Wallace observes that disagreement doesn’t negate the truth. Truth remains truth whether people understand it or agree on it. Paul is saying the same thing, basically, when he says, “Let God be true though every one were a liar.” (Romans 3:4) We can’t judge God by the way people act, and we can’t judge the truth of Christianity by the way the Church acts.

On that last statement, I can imagine someone saying, “Now wait a minute! Shouldn’t we hold the Church to a higher standard? Shouldn’t the Church, of all institutions, be better than secular ones? If Christianity is true, shouldn’t we expect more harmony in the Church?

I actually agree with these criticisms. What about the inquisitions, and Christians burning other Christians at the stake for heresy and Puritans burning Puritans at the stake for supposedly being witches? That sounds like a lot of infighting for a group of people who are called to be “one in Christ”!

These are serious charges against the Church and Christianity. Wallace is right, that every human institution under the sun has disagreement, but shouldn’t the Church be different? If God is God and Christianity is true, shouldn’t the Church stand apart?

Jesus called his followers to be like a city set on a hill, like a beacon of truth. He said the world would know his followers by their love for one another, and he prayed for them to be one with each other as he and the Father are one.

We don’t have to dig very deep, or look very far or think very long before we find examples throughout history and in current events today that paint a very different picture of the Church. The Church, universal, is fragmented. Even denominations, within themselves, are divided. Division and dissention occurs in our local churches.

The skeptics put up a serious challenge to believers when they make the claim that our penchant for disagreement calls into question the truth that we stand for. How do we respond?

Yes, disagreements in the Church do not negate the truth, but how do we put them in perspective? How do they fit the truth that is revealed in Scripture? How do we reflect the love of God to the world as a fractured and broken Church?

I don’t believe I have a complete handle on these things, but I have some thoughts on how we can square the disagreement in the Church with Scripture and how we should respond as believers to this challenge.

Continue reading “Putting Denominational Disagreements in Perspective for the World and the Church”

Toward an Understanding of the Wrath of a Loving God

If there is no God whose wrath will produce ultimate justice, we who are justice-minded have no recourse other than to respond in kind


I am currently reading, A Gentle Answer: Our “Secret Weapon” in an Age of Us Against Them, by Scott Sauls. The following statement in the book reminded me of similar observations made by Miraslav Volf:

“Some [people] object [to the idea of God’s anger] strongly: ‘…. If there is a God at all for me, it’s not an angry God. My God is loving. My God would never lash out or punish or judge or get angry at people.’ When I hear someone discount or downplay the biblical idea of God as a judge, whose holiness sometimes includes expressions of anger, I wonder if they have ever been the bullied kid, or the abused woman, or the oppressed slave, or the assault victim? I wonder if they have sat down and listened to the story of a holocaust victim, or of someone whose child was kidnapped, or of a woman whose husband abandoned her for a younger mistress?’”

I have heard Tim Keller talk on the subject, and the most poignant source of his ideas that he quoted was writings by Miraslov Volf, the Croatian theologian, professor of Theology and Director of the Yale Center for Faith and Culture at Yale University.

Volf was influenced by his own experience with the Yugoslav Wars, characterized by the ethnic cleansing that raged in what is now known as Croatia in what is, perhaps, his most influential writing: Exclusion and Embrace: A Theological Exploration of Identity, Otherness, and Reconciliation (1996). According to Wikipedia, “Exclusion and Embrace deals with the challenges of reconciliation in contexts of persisting enmity in which no clear line can be drawn between victims and perpetrators and in which today’s victims become tomorrow’s perpetrators—conditions that arguably describe the majority of the world’s conflicts.”

That context might represent a large portion of the world we live in at various times and places. Think Hatfields and McCoys, for instance. In a later work, Volf reflected:

“I used to think that wrath was unworthy of God. Isn’t God love? Shouldn’t divine love be beyond wrath? God is love, and God loves every person and every creature. That’s exactly why God is wrathful against some of them. My last resistance to the idea of God’s wrath was a casualty of the war in former Yugoslavia, the region from which I come. According to some estimates, 200,000 people were killed and over 3,000,000 were displaced. My villages and cities were destroyed, my people shelled day in and day out, some of them brutalized beyond imagination, and I could not imagine God not being angry. Or think of Rwanda in the last decade of the past century, where 800,000 people were hacked to death in one hundred days! How did God react to the carnage? By doting on the perpetrators in a grandparently fashion? By refusing to condemn the bloodbath but instead affirming the perpetrators basic goodness? Wasn’t God fiercely angry with them? Though I used to complain about the indecency of the idea of God’s wrath, I came to think that I would have to rebel against a God who wasn’t wrathful at the sight of the world’s evil. God isn’t wrathful in spite of being love. God is wrathful because God is love.

“Once we accept the appropriateness of God’s wrath, condemnation, and judgment, there is no way of keeping it out there, reserved for others. We have to bring it home as well. I originally resisted the notion of a wrathful God because I dreaded being that wrath’s target; I still do. I knew I couldn’t just direct God’s wrath against others, as if it were a weapon I could aim at targets I particularly detested. It’s God’s wrath, not mine, the wrath of the one and impartial God, lover of all humanity. If I want it to fall on evildoers, I must let it fall on myself – when I deserve it.

“Also, once we affirm that God’s condemnation of wrongdoing is appropriate, we cannot reserve God’s condemnation for heinous crimes. Where would the line be drawn? On what grounds could it be drawn? Everything that deserves to be condemned should be condemned in proportion to its weight as an offense – from a single slight to a murder, from indolence to idolatry, from lust to rape. To condemn heinous offenses but not light ones would be manifestly unfair. An offense is an offense and deserves condemnation…” (From Free of Charge: Giving and Forgiving in a Culture Stripped of Grace pp. 138-139)

These poignant reflections work toward the “appeal”, or at least makes some sense of, the idea of a wrathful, but loving God. I sense, though, that people of modern sensibilities may still be reluctant to credit the goodness of a wrathful God. This is where Miraslov Volf brilliantly exposes the faulty thinking of the western mind that has been largely untouched by evils that are reality in many other areas of the world: Continue reading “Toward an Understanding of the Wrath of a Loving God”

What Does God Want from Us?

This question gets at the whole point of Scripture….


If God is the creator of the universe, of everything seen and unseen, as the Bible says, if God was intentional in His creation and made us in His image as the centerpiece of His creation, what was His intention for us? What does He want from us?

This question gets at the whole point of Scripture, but I think we miss the point among all the words sometimes.

Even people who believe that God exists and acknowledge God made us get lost in the words sometimes. We see in Scripture lists of “do’s and don’ts” and rules and warnings, and we fail to see the big picture, the purpose of God. We fail to see God’s character and heart.

The Law was intended by God to show us what is right and, more importantly, to reveal to us that we are incapable of doing what is right in and of ourselves. (Rom. 7:7-25) We all fall short (Rom. 3:23), and we fail to do what we know we ought to do. (Rom. 7:18-19)

Anyone who depends on doing right to make themselves right with God are cursed (Gal. 3:10). If they fail at one point, they fail at everything. If a person refrains from killing anyone his entire life except for one time, he is still a murderer – not because of all the people he didn’t kill, but because of the one person he did kill. If a person lies only once, he is a liar.

If you sin once, you are sinner. “If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us.” (1 John 1:8)

The point of the law is to help us understand that we can’t achieve righteousness by our own efforts. It’s impossible for us. We must depend on God for it. The Law was given alongside the promise of God to show people their sins to that we would receive the grace that God offers us through Jesus. (Gal. 3:19)

Salvation (from sin and death) is a gift God gives us by His grace; God gives us salvation by grace so that none of us can boast about having earned it. (Eph. 2:8-9)

But is this all God expects from us? Is this all God wants from us – to be saved from sin and death? If salvation from sin and death was all God wanted for us, He could have made us without the capability of sinning, and He could have made us eternal from the beginning.

Continue reading “What Does God Want from Us?”

The Counter Culture of Gentleness in an Angry World


The Bible verse of the day today in the YouVersion app is from Proverbs 15:1:

“A soft [gentle] answer turns away wrath.[1]

I try to read Scripture every day. I have a reading plan (reading through the Bible chronologically this year), and I usually read the Scripture of the day. Every once in a while, the Scripture I am reading for the day comes up that day in another context.

Today is Sunday, and the sermon I listened to today by Jeff Frazier at Chapelstreet Church in Batavia, IL was about the misconception that we should not judge. I would post the message (because it’s a good one), but it isn’t on the Internet yet for viewing. The message was somewhat along the lines of an article I wrote, 8 Important Points About Judging and Judgment.

Keys points are that God didn’t tell us to judge; he told us to judge others with the same measure we judge ourselves; we need to take the logs out of our own eyes before we can take the specks out of our brothers’ eyes; we are not instructed to judge the world (God is their judge), but we are to judge those in the church; we need each other’s righteous judgment and gentle help in dealing with sin (speaking the truth in love to one another).

Jeff said something about removing specks from brothers’ eyes that I hadn’t thought about before. I note that we must be close to our brothers to remove specks from their eyes, and that requires close, intimate relationship. He added that we don’t go about removing objects in our loved ones’ eyes with a screwdriver and a pliers! We do it gently, carefully with a delicate touch.

The real take away for me in his message, and the reason that I write is not about relationships in the body of Christ among the brothers and sisters in the faith, but our relationship to the world with people who do not subscribe to the faith. This is where he used the statement in proverbs – a gentle answer turns away wrath – and it couldn’t be more relevant to the times.

Continue reading “The Counter Culture of Gentleness in an Angry World”

Should We Hate the Sin, and Love the Sinner?

The focus on hating the sin, but loving the sinner is is a distortion of what Jesus instructs us to do.


The phrase, “Hate the sin, but love the sinner”, sounds biblical. The phrase, itself, isn’t found anywhere in Scripture, but it sounds kind of right, right?

God certainly does hate sin. No punches are pulled on the subject. For instance, we read the following in Proverbs 6:16-19:

There are six things the Lord hates,
    seven that are detestable to him:
        haughty eyes,
        a lying tongue,
        hands that shed innocent blood,
        a heart that devises wicked schemes,
        feet that are quick to rush into evil,
        a false witness who pours out lies
        and a person who stirs up conflict in the community.

And there is no doubt that God loves sinners. Paul made that perfectly clear when he said:

“But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” (Rom. 5:8)

To that extent, we can say that God hates sin, but He loves sinners. The phrase, however, is usually stated as a way that we should orient ourselves toward other people. More specifically, the phrase is usually suggested as a way of orienting ourselves (Christians) toward “certain” people. We say it because we hate the sin, especially their sin, and we are reminding ourselves to love the sinner.

It’s a phase that Christians generally seem to like, but non-Christians don’t seem to like it nearly as much as do. We could chalk it up to them not understanding, not believing in the Bible and not appreciating what Jesus did on the cross for us. But is it really biblical?

While it’s biblical to say that God hates sin, but loves sinners, is it biblical instruction for us to say, “Hate sin but  love sinners? Jeff Frazier at the Chaplestreet Church in Batavia, IL (who preached on this subject August 2, 2020, and who’s sermon inspires this post) suggests that it isn’t biblical, at least not in the way it is usually applied.

Continue reading “Should We Hate the Sin, and Love the Sinner?”