Divisiveness vs. Inclusiveness in Christianity

Jamie Barrows


A friend of mine posted a commentary on his blog about preference and bias, and how it affects the Christian church today. His commentary really got me thinking about the tendency in the modern church to go to extremes of either separation, or inclusiveness. It doesn’t seem like there are many churches in between.
As many of you know, I went to a Christian College here in Pensacola. Pensacola Christian College sees itself as a spiritual leader in the Independent Baptist movement. And the truth is, that they are. Though, even though they won’t admit it, they share that position with Bob Jones University.

When I first went to PCC, I really didn’t know much about the college. I don’t come from a Baptist background, and hadn’t heard much about them. There were a few adjustments, but my church background was pretty conservative, so I didn’t have a big problem fitting in. The worship styles and daily living standards, were not much different from those in the Presbyterian denominations (OPC and PCA) I had grown up in. But what I wasn’t used to, was the extremes of separation the Independent Baptist movement goes to. Music, books, instruments, politics, Bible versions, clothing styles, preaching styles, praying styles, associations, lack of associations, and the list goes on. It seemed to me that they were actively looking for reasons to separate and vilify their fellow Christians. Most of the things they were separating over were petty and stupid, but if you suggested such, people assumed that that meant you didn’t believe in “separation.” The constant divisiveness and fighting really bothered me.

After I graduated, I did a lot of church hopping as I looked for a church I felt comfortable with. As a consequence I ended up visiting a lot of churches that didn’t believe in separating at all. So important doctrines and standards were thrown out in favor of presenting a united Christian front. All the emphasis was centered around being a big family. Which is good in a way. After all, we are a big family and will be together in heaven. But by ignoring key doctrines and beliefs in favor of unity, you open the door to a lot of problems and heresies that can seriously mess up peoples lives. The message seemed to be that in order to associate with people who believed differently, we had to accept that their beliefs were just as correct as ours. Even when they were in direct contradiction with our beliefs.

What is really needed, is a middle ground. We need to recognize and acknowledge our differences without vilifying each other over them. We should be able to meet on common ground whenever it won’t compromise our beliefs. Both sides fall into the trap of equating association with validation. There is no reason why you can’t associate with someone without agreeing with all his actions and beliefs.

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