Now a Jew named Apollos, a native of Alexandria, came to Ephesus. He was an eloquent man, competent in the Scriptures. He had been instructed in the way of the Lord. And being fervent in spirit, he spoke and taught accurately the things concerning Jesus, though he knew only the baptism of John. He began to speak boldly in the synagogue, but when Priscilla and Aquila heard him, theyYou know what is really the problem with the church? It is full of people who are just flat out wrong about stuff. Really, really wrong about lots and lots of stuff. How can these people claim to be Christians and be so utterly clueless? Makes me really wonder…sheesh!
took him aside and explained to him the way of God more accuratelyimmediately refused to have anything to do with him and wrote a series of blog posts to explain why he was wrong to believe as he did. (Acts 18: 24-26 remixed)
There was a time when I didn't really see this as a problem. We are called to contend earnestly for the faith after all and if that doesn't mean smiting the ignorant, what does it mean? I used to scour the interwebs for somebody saying something I could point out the flaws in and I cut my blogging teeth on the offerings of the Reformed semi-professional attack bloggers.
Those days are (mostly) in the past. I have grown weary of the constant fighting, slander and hatred. I expect that the world will hate us and persecute us but shouldn't we expect something different from our brothers, even those that are "wrong"? When Jude calls for us to "contend earnestly" I don't think he meant the online version of screaming in someone's face or snarkily cutting them down to look cool in front of the other kids. Given that I have modified many of my own positions as I have studied and contemplated, there are times when I look back at what I wrote in the past and think that what I said then is “wrong” now. That doesn’t mean I wasn’t a Christian just because my positions were not as “nuanced” as they are today nor does it mean that I am not going to be a Christian in the future. The stark reality is that the church is full of people who will spend eternity in Christ along with me that I think are dead wrong on some stuff and who no doubt would think the same of me (if they knew me).
For example....an Arminian who belongs to Christ, even if he wrongly thinks he chose Him of his own "free will", is my brother in Christ and if he declares Christ to the lost and cares for the widow and orphan, he is someone I should try to imitate. A Calvinist who also belongs to Christ but thinks that blogging about how wrong Arminians are is the extent of his calling is not someone I care to imitate even if he can explain the doctrines of election, predestination and monergistic regeneration with the best of 'em.
I do believe that there are people who are saved that either misunderstand or even actively deny important doctrines like the Trinity. I think there are lots of people who are saved who think that a priest transforms a wafer in the Body of Christ and wine into His blood even though I think the doctrine of transubstantiation is an abomination. I think that those who apply “baptism” to infants are wrong but many of my closest friends who live praiseworthy lives also have “baptized” their children for what they believe are valid and biblical reasons and that doesn't make them people to avoid.
So what do we do with this information, how do we live in this reality where brothers and sisters in Christ are off the mark, sometimes quite seriously? The typical response is to keep them at arms length. That certainly is easiest and the most pragmatic but I am not sure how Biblical it is. The harder course is to love one another while working this stuff out. If we refuse to have any contact with those in need of correction, how does that help? If Aquila and Priscilla had refused to have anything to do with Apollos, would he ever have known the “better way”?
Ultimately I believe that God has His elect is all sorts of places and not just in "Biblical churches" that follow the "historic creeds" and hold to an "orthodox theology". One is not part of the elect because one affirms certain doctrinal statements and creeds or is a “member” in good standing in a “biblical church”. Those may be the result of being one of the elect of course. Likewise there are many of God’s elect who “go to church” in the wrong kind of church and who probably believe a lot of stuff that is wrong. When God removes the heart of stone from us and replaces it with a heart of flesh that He writes His Law on, there is not a section set aside for the 1869 Baptist Confession and because we know this, do we not have an obligation to help our brothers and sisters grow in the faith?
Again hear me out. I would hope if you have read here very long you know that I consider many doctrines to be hugely important, and getting them "right" is crucial. Just glossing over everything to get to a lowest common denominator is not healthy for the church and it must not be a method to draw the unregenerate into the fellowship by smoothing down the rough patches in the Gospel. The balance must come in being unified in word and deed with our brothers and sisters while still working out in a community hermeneutic the crucial questions of doctrine and practice. I am by no means an expert at this and I have a long way to go but I think that getting to that place should be the desire of every follower of Christ.