I used to love to play the game “Risk”, mainly because I like the strategy that it requires. If you have every played “Risk” (or ever saw the Princess Bride) than you know the most popular of all strategies in “Risk” is to not get into a land war in Asia. However, if you want to win in “Risk” the strategy is to divide and conquer, to subvert and lie in wait, to get someone else to do the dirty work and to clean up the mess after the fallout. To win in “Risk”, you get two of your enemies to engage in an arms race where they pit the majority of their resources against each other. Their escalation gets to the point where they engage in thermonuclear war, and then you come in with your forces afterwards to sweep up the remains.
The interesting thing is this. I contend that is exactly what Satan is doing right now. Satan is pitting church leaders against one another. He has focused our attention debating secondary issues that have no bearing or connection to Jesus. How many times do we see church congregations split because of music, carpet color, or other inane reason? How many times do we see political infighting amongst associations and conventions because of a perceived conflict with each other’s theological understanding (if you said “never” to this one, then clearly you haven’t been to Texas)? How many times have we debated eschatology to no end?
I go to B.H. Carroll Theological Institute (and I really like it). Once I interviewed for a church staff position. The pastor of this church looked at my resume and saw BHCTI on my resume and immediately presumed that I didn’t place a high priority on scripture because of where I go to seminary, and then had the audacity to tell me about it. He made two really outrageous assumptions. First is that I didn’t love and trust scripture as much as he did (also that the people at BHCTI really didn’t love scripture either). Second, his understanding of scripture was superior to mine, and thus the only logical and correct conclusions on the nature of an individual’s relationship with Christ, scripture, and all things regarding God was his. Needless to say that after the first interview, I never heard from them again.
One of the podcasts that I listen to is Tony Campolo’s podcast. If you haven’t subscribed to his podcast, I would highly recommend it. In one of the recent podcasts, he talks about a book he wrote a while ago. In the introduction he says that there may be some who consider him a heretic. He responds by saying “Yes, I am heretic…if what you mean by heresy is that I have distorted vision of the truth, if what you mean by heresy is that I don’t have all the answers, if what you mean by heresy is that my perception of God is not perfect, if what you mean by heresy is that my understanding of scripture is not 100% accurate. If that is what you mean by heresy, who then is not a heretic.”
I don’t have a perfect understanding of scripture or God. I feel very much like Paul in 1 Corinthians 13:9-10 (The Message) “We know only a portion of the truth, and what we say about God is always incomplete. But when the Complete arrives, our incompleteness will be canceled.” By this, it would suggest that no person or institution has a full understanding of God or has a monopoly all of the intricacies of God, but rather distorted views of the Truth. Our distortion is because our vision of God has been corrupted by our own sinful nature. Therefore holding fidelity to some sort of tradition or stance that is extra-biblical, or is based on that distortion of the Truth is just as much heresy on the conservative side of the spectrum as it is on the liberal side, and demands just as much confession and repentance. Presuming motives, and holding guard to these traditions or stances leads just as much people astray on both sides.
Here is the thing, I don’t agree with everything that I read or hear from people who I respect. I don’t consider myself reformed, but that doesn’t keep me from reading John Piper. The opposite is true as well. There are people who I can’t stand who I think are jerks and are uber-pompous, but they write or say something that I can support. This is something that I have had to pray and work through. Like many people, I have had work through my nature to always want to be right and give a full-throated defense of my position, while deconstructing and demeaning anyone who disagreed with me. Simply because they were wrong, and they needed to sit there in the wrongness, be wrong and deal with it. They were wrong in a “dangerous, lead people astray” kind of way (this last part was pretty much lifted directly from Matthew Paul Turner’s blog www.jesusneedsnewpr.net)
So while we lob grenades at each other because we disagree about the role of the deacon in a church, or which Baptist Faith and Message we really really like, the enemy takes ground. We hold more fidelity to an institution or line of thinking, than to the fact that the world is crumbling around us. Rome is burning and we are looking for the first group that we disagree with to blame and persecute.
Like in Risk we load up our armies to do battle, and once we have decimated each other, there is little left of our forces to mount any meaningful defense. It is only later that we realize that the army we have fought was really an ally, and we realize it when the real enemy swoops in and runs roughshod on both of our forces. If you are a believer in Christ, then let me finish by quoting a song from Jars of Clay: “Lay your weapons down, there are no enemies in front of you.”