Discernment vs Unity


I’ve been reading John MacArthur’s book Ashamed of the Gospel in which he discusses the “downgrade” controversy between Charles Spurgeon and the Baptist Union in the early 1900’s.  Naturally, I did some searching and came up with some of Spurgeon’s own writings about the subject.

The question that I have been wrestling with in my own thinking is the inevitable clash between those who favor “truth at any cost” discernment ministries and those who favor “peace at any cost” unity advocates.  Jonathan Falwell recently tweeted:

RT @PastorTullian: F. Schaeffer said bitter divisions among Christians give world justification they’re looking for to disbelieve the gospel

Now this may seem innocent enough until you read that Liberty University has recently been the subject of a small kerfluffle over the resume of their own Ergun Caner.  Said kerfluffle originated from online “discernment” bloggers.  To be fair, Liberty University has been professional and upright in their own investigation into the allegations and Dr. Caner has been willing to answer questions.

As I see it, two things happened here that can be useful in further discussions.  One is that a discernment “ministry” spent time and effort combing through someone’s resume to try and find a discrepancy.  I don’t think we can call this a productive use of discernment skills and time.  There are so many glaring and public instances of apostasy in the news today that one hardly needs to use a magnifying glass to read over footnotes in someone’s biography to find examples.  Discernment ministries will be more respected and treated with civility when they act the part of mature Christians.

The second lesson we can learn from in this debacle is the proper way to respond to questions raised about one’s ministry.  Liberty University did well in this situation by appointing a committee to investigate rather than just issue blanket denials.  Perhaps Jonathan Falwell’s tweets could have been a bit more restrained but over all I think they handled the situation well.

Another example of working well was the recently situation with Chuck Smith and Lighthouse Trails Research in which Pastor Smith responded and clarified his position without hiding behind a wall of “unity at any cost” or “touch not mine anointed”.

We would all do well as Christians to remember that upholding the truth and staying faithful to Scripture is of course vitally important but so is speaking the truth in love and being honest and open when confronted over issues rather than hiding behind tired and worn out clichés such as “touch not mine anointed.”

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One comment on “Discernment vs Unity

  1. True, but on either side, we can’t believe everything we hear (Acts 17:11, I Thes 5:21). I think I was following this issue on the proverbial “other side”. One ministry I listen to came across some factual inconsistencies on Caner’s part in the field in which he specializes, and asked a few questions. The stonewalling and Twitter blocking the ensued piqued curiosity, and they began digging deeper. I’m not convinced they did anything outside the bounds of love. He was protecting credibility, as he could hardly expect those he challenged to be consistent and overlook inconsistency on Caner’s part.

    Ashamed of the Gospel is a great book. Reckless Faith is another good one. One builds on the other, but I’m not sure which came first.

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