My sister was telling me yesterday about a Bible study that she attends every week. There are five or six women - from varying Christian faiths - who attend this study, and they have been looking at different aspects of Christianity. Just this past week, they got sidetracked a little bit, and they got to talking about different theological questions that always seem to come up. Among them, a question invariably came up that stumped my sister. She admits that this is the one question she has the most difficulty answering. A few of the ladies asked, "Does it really matter what we believe? We all pretty much believe the same things when it comes down to it. As long as we all believe in Jesus, we should be able to put our differences aside, shouldn't we?"
In this postmodern climate that we live in, this seems to be a fairly popular sentiment. And I understand why. The history books show us the results of allowing theology to divide. The Spanish Inquisition claimed the lives of thousands; Ulrich Zwingli had Anabaptists drowned in Switzerland because of their insistence on rebaptizing; and we still see the conflict in Northern Ireland between Protestants and Catholics. Why should one's views on God be the cause of so much animosity and hatred?
Problem is, the Bible doesn't work that way. And neither does life. We all have a yearning to understand truth on some level. At some point, kids give up on the idea of Santa Claus really existing, and if a grown-up were to insist on his existence, we would question his sanity. This is not to say that anyone has ever been killed in the name of Santa Claus and, to be sure, killing in the name of God is absolutely repulsive, but one of the basic yearnings of the human heart is to be able to separate truth from fiction. We may all have a desire for community and for getting along, but that will never be enough to put a pause on our desire to understand truth.
Take marriage, for example. When I first started dating my wife, I wasn't merely satisfied with staring into her eyes for hours at a time, silently passing the hours away. I wanted to know everything about her. I wanted to know her fears, her dreams; I wanted to know the truth about her.
And so it is with God. The person who has a deep heart-experience with Him doesn't simply want to "get along" with everyone else at the expense of knowing God. That person naturally wants to know all the peculiarities of God's personality. He or she cannot be satisfied with peripheral knowledge about God, and forfeiting a knowledge about God for the sake of community would never satisfy that person. Deep down inside, we all have a deep yearning to understand the things of God, and to ignore that knowledge and truth would be to go against that which we long for.
More significantly, however, the Bible has some strong things to say about truth. I came across a delightful verse the other day - before talking with my sister - that addresses this very issue. It's not a verse we hear quoted very often, but it has great relevance to those of us who just want to get along at the expense of a deepening understanding of God. Paul writes that there are certain individuals who will perish "because they did not receive the love of the truth so as to be saved" (2 Thess 2:10).
Did you catch that? Paul makes it abundantly clear that, in order to be "saved," we have to have a "love [Greek: agape] of the truth." This mentality of "it doesn't matter what you believe" is unbiblical and will ultimately lead to a person's destruction. In our pluralistic culture, this idea doesn't sit well with us. And yet, if we choose to humble ourselves to the authority of the Bible, we have to grapple with this idea.
No, we shouldn't let theology divide us to the extent that it far-too-often does. But neither should we feel that it doesn't matter if, for example, I believe in Arminianism, and my buddy believes in Calvinism. God cares immensely about how He is presented to the world. Wouldn't you also feel hurt if your character was misrepresented to others - the way that God is so often misrepresented today?