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The Differences Make all the Difference

June 26, 2012

I recently read a statement regarding the Vatican 2 council (a Catholic council addressing doctrinal issues for the Catholic Church) in which the author concluded that there are many things with which we would disagree, but many things which we would affirm. The idea being that because we share so much in agreement together, we can overlook the few differences and cooperate together. This notion has been offered over and over again as a good reason to cooperate or fellowship with other churches and associations. This in dangerous and unbiblical.

The differences between two groups are- hold on this is deep- what makes those groups different. I don’t agree with the presuppositions in the studies, but scientists have loudly proclaimed the fact that we share 98% of the same genes as chimpanzees. Do we treat chimps as people because we share so much in common? Do we find it reasonable to marry them, invite them into our homes, adopt them as children or hire them to make our fast food burgers? Of course not! The differences make all the difference! In the realm of professing Christianity, the differences are of vital importance. We may share a common appreciation for the moral instruction of the Word and a common belief that the Bible is from God, yet if we do not share a common agreement of total inspiration by God and complete inerrancy, then we have nothing in common. We may share a common understanding of the historicity and monumental importance of Christ, yet if we do not share a common agreement on the Deity and perfection of Christ, then we have nothing in common. We may share a common understanding that Jesus died for our sin and offers to us eternal life, yet if we do not share a common agreement that Christ died in our place and is the only and full means of salvation, then we have nothing in common. The differences between us are ones of eternal destiny and spiritual parentage. The differences cannot possibly be overstated and must not be downplayed.

Even within the circles of those who might be called conservative evangelicals and fundamentalists, the differences are very important. While we may hold common agreement on the major doctrines regarding salvation, the doctrines over which we disagree are significant enough to make us very different from one another. The issue of separation has long been the dividing line between evangelicals and fundamentalists. The refusal to fellowship with those who teach false doctrine is a significant difference. While one can have a deep appreciation for the teaching of a particular evangelical, the difference in separation is so great that there cannot be a full fellowship together. A great commonality exists between fundamentalists and evangelicals,but that’s not the issue. The issue are the differences. The differences in separation are what make us different and which hinder or preclude fellowship together.

Even within fundamentalism, there are many doctrines which we do not hold in common with other fundamentalists and that distinguish us from one another. Some fundamentalists have an elder led church polity, some have a strong stance on Calvinism and each has their own set of institutional standards. Some of these differences within fundamentalism should not prevent fellowship and cooperation, not being issues over which we should separate, but these differences are important. Believers need to be aware of these differences and have an accurate understanding of their Biblical importance.

We love to find the common ground and rally around the things in which we share agreement. However, discernment is the ability to see, understand and properly weigh the things which we do not have in common. We need not be cantankerous and divisive, but we must be discerning in our church attendance, our reading, our listening and our study. We must not believe the lie that because we have so much in common we just agree to ignore the differences. Sometimes those differences are the ones between heaven and hell.

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