Saturday, June 30, 2007

Multiple Integrities

How do I as a Christian act towards other Christians who disagree with me? There's still a disagreement rumbling on in the evangelical bit of the C of E about women leading churches, and whether it should happen or not. Years ago, when they changed the rules so that women were allowed to lead churches, some people thought it was a bad idea - basically this was because they thought that men and women were different but equal and that the Bible said that the differences should be reflected in the jobs that men and women do in churches. The C of E then introduced the idea of two integrities, which meant that people could believe either that women should be allowed to lead churches, or that they shouldn't, and that we'd all try not to offend the other lot.

That's a great idea, and actually it comes out of being humble when we try to understand the Bible. I know that I'm not omniscient, even if I can use long words. I know that I don't understand things perfectly and that other people might have a better idea. And so I try to believe what I think the Bible teaches, and I let what other people think and have thought it teaches affect what I think, but if someone else who is doing the same disagrees with me, we talk about it and I try to understand where they are coming from, and then maybe one of us changes our mind or maybe we agree that the other person's position makes sense but we agree to disagree.

But that doesn't mean it's acceptable for people to believe whatever they want. For example, the Bible is very clear that Jesus is God, in a way that I am not. To my mind, the distinction comes either when people get to the point of saying “well, the Bible might say that, but I disagree with it”, or if they go dramatically against what the Church has always thought if it's an area where the Church right through history has agreed on something.

What seems to be happening in some circles in what passes for evangelicalism now is that some people seem to be rejecting other people's ability to conclude stuff they disagree with from a passage. So, for example, some people say that Christians shouldn't be allowed to believe that the differences between men and women should affect which jobs they can do in a church, whatever the Bible teaches.

To my mind, if someone can say “Believe me, rather than what you think the Bible says” then they're not being an evangelical Christian.

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