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Posted: July 5, 2012 9:28 p.m.

Dees: Where the church is united and divided

Over the past five weeks, we have been having a conversation about the nature of theological unity and division. This is one of the most important conversations that a community of Christians can have. Naturally churches and Christians tend to have two extremes.

The one extreme is so convictional that it places every aspect of theological conviction on the same level, therefore Christians and churches that fall into this extreme never partner with anyone or any church that disagrees with them even on very particular theological issues.

The other extreme is that churches and believers are "so open" that they have no conviction. These churches end up becoming Universalists, not wanting to draw theological lines anywhere. Thus, our conversation has been an important one as we have been seeking to find a middle ground. On the one hand, it is important that churches partner with one another, but on the other hand it is important that churches stand firm on their Biblically-based theological convictions. Using Albert Mohler's three levels of "Theological Triage" we have talked about where the church can be united on level one issues, and where denominations and churches need to divide because of "level two" issues. Today we turn to the final level of Theological Triage, level three.

Level Three issues are areas of theology where people can disagree but still remain in the same church. These are of lesser importance than level one or level two issues. To try and classify all level three issues would be an impossible task, but very broadly, level three issues are those issues that the vast majority of Christians recognize as unclear in scripture. An example of this is a person's understanding of the millennial reign of Christ. In my church many people believe that Christ will return before his millennial reign (pre-millennialists), some believe that the millennial reign mentioned in Revelation 20 is an analogy for heaven now (amillennialists), and others believe that the church will bring the reign of Christ to earth before the physical return of Christ (post-millennialists). Now, what a person believes about the millennial reign of Christ is an important conviction. For example, I am a pre-millennialists, believing that when Christ returns he, in the flesh, will establish a thousand year reign on earth. This is important to my world view and understanding of Christ's dominance not only over the age to come, but also over this age. However, this conviction is not as important or foundational to my faith as my conviction of baptism by immersion, or my conviction that salvation is found in Christ alone. Furthermore, I recognize that the Bible's teaching on Christ's millennial reign is not as clear as many other doctrines.

The balance between cooperation and conviction is often times a very delicate line to walk. This is a question that I am always asking and a question that you and your church leadership need to be asking. Christians should desire to cooperate with one another for the sake of the gospel, but Christians must also hold to their convictions. It is my hope that understanding different "levels" of theological importance will help you to maneuver this very difficult question.

I want to encourage you to reference the previous articles that can be found in the religion archives at covnews.com. I also want to encourage you to write me if you have any questions about when and for what causes Christian groups should cooperate and when it is best that they work separately. Feel free to write me at jdees@firstbaptistcovington.com.

Jason Dees is a grateful follower of Jesus Christ, the husband of Paige and the father of Emery Anna. He is also the senior pastor of First Baptist Church in Covington.

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