Thursday, November 02, 2006

Making Allowances

I am the lone pastor in our homeschool group and as such I am often sought out for spiritual advice, to cast vision for our group, and sometimes settle disagreements. At times it is a great blessing, at other times it is the bane of my family’s wider homeschooling endeavor. Our group meets on Tuesday afternoons in a cooperative style, teaching different classes, supplemental to our home curriculums. I am teaching chemistry this year! However, a little over a year ago I had an ugly confrontation with a fellow pastor whose children were meeting with us on Tuesday afternoons.

A problem arose in literature class which was the result of a gross misunderstanding. The pastor’s youngest daughter told her daddy that her teacher was essentially teaching that evolution was true. (Please do not leave any comments desiring to discuss creation and evolution; it is not the point of this post. Suffice it to say I believe special creation, so please stick with me here.) In a discussion of the creation story from Egyptian mythology, the little girl questioned her teacher and she could not answer in the affirmative that she believed in creation as presented in the early chapters of Genesis.

The little lady promptly told her daddy about it and to make a long story short, my brother pastor confronted the teacher and hurt her terribly. There was no humility or grace in his attack; wholly uncharacteristic of a Christian minister. One thing led to another and he called me after several conversations with this lady. Essentially he desired to mount an offensive against her and me being the only other pastor in our group, he thought he would have an instant ally.

I met him for breakfast and he shared his concerns. To prepare myself, and to be fair, I met with the teacher the week before, with another lady present from our homeschool group. Her husband was working, unable to get time off to meet with us. Having her side of the story, I met my brother pastor and I was not shocked to hear a differing tale. I was willing to give him the benefit of the doubt, as I did the other lady, until he made a bold, underhanded statement.

I could accept defending his children. I accepted the potentiality of false teaching amongst our group. I accepted his right to be upset. After a laborious conversation, I was becoming sickened by false humility. It was then that he finally called the lady’s salvation into question. “Tony,” he said, “if she doesn’t believe Genesis 1-11 there is no way she can be saved.”

I nearly dropped my teeth. It took me a few moments to gather my thoughts. I really could not believe my ears and I am certain the dumbfounded expression betrayed to him my incredulity. “Well, what you are saying then is that I was not saved until just about eight or ten years ago.” I came to Christ in my late teen years and went to college to major in biology. I was really wrestling with my newfound faith and, being a science major, special creation contradicted everything I was being taught at the University of South Carolina at Spartanburg.

I will never forget one of the very first lectures in my baby botany class, which began with a discussion of the primordial ooze. A theory postulated by A. I. Oparin, a primitive “ooze” containing all the necessary elements of life was electrified in some way and behold, life began. I raised my hand and with all the innocence of a baby Christian, asked, “Where did the elements come from?” The professor answered, “They were always there.” That answer never washed with me and it still doesn’t but it was the best she could do. They had to come from somewhere didn’t they?

Nevertheless, when I came to Jesus Christ I understood some simple things. I understood that I was a sinner; a dirty rotten sinner. I felt I was so sinful that I could not be forgiven. (I learned otherwise.) I also understood that Jesus Christ died a horrible, agonizing death for me. The reason why—the wages of sin is death. I literally remember feeling so sinful and so separated from God that I wanted to die; I deserved to die. However, God had other plans for my trivial existence. My good friend, Todd, shared with me that Jesus’ death was sufficient to pay the penalty for my sins; He died so I wouldn’t have to! Now that was good news! Weeping, on my knees in Todd’s bedroom, I called on Jesus Christ to save me from my sins and I was born again. The joy of forgiveness washed over my soul, changing me from the inside out. I finally felt I was right with God.

Now I share that brief testimony to make this point. I did not believe in creation when I was saved. I had never heard of the verbal plenary inspiration of the Bible. I was light years from believing that Scripture is inerrant. It took me a lot of time to come to and hold the convictions that I do now. I did not instantly believe all those things; I had to work out my own salvation, and it has been with fear and trembling.

So, I asked my brother pastor, “Did you believe Genesis 1-11 was literal history when you came to know Christ?” He responded, “Of course I did.” But I said, “Are you not willing to make an allowance in this lady’s case, that she may be working toward that end and that she may also come to that conclusion, that Genesis 1-11 is literal history? Are you not willing to allow her time to formulate her own convictions and not force her into any particular mold?”

Sadly, he answered in the negative, and if I would not stand beside him and fight this thing, then he would find someone who would. He simply wanted her out; no discussion, just a call for her resignation, making no allowances. By the grace of God, no one took up arms and jumped in the foxhole with him, so he and his family quietly left our homeschool group. Their decision saddened me and our group, because they were a sweet family; passionate, committed, homeschoolers, zealous for their children’s welfare.

There is a moral to this story, and it may already be apparent. However, entertain me just a while longer. I have been in the blogosphere for a few months now and have made some great cyber friends. Raborn out at Ray’s X-change and Steve at Theological Musings are passionate simple church advocates. I have had great discussions with both of them. They love the Lord dearly, but we have a few theological differences. If you want to talk SBC politics, then Les Puryear is your man out at Crucified with Christ. Earl Flask is a gentle yet persuasive Calvinist blogger at metaSchema (I don’t know what that means either). He attends a Presbyterian church and he and I have been discussing baptism; need I say more?

If you want pure biblical exposition and heart and soul edification, plus a good laugh every now and then, see Gordon Cloud at Heavenly Heartburn. Tim Blankenship at Fire and Hammer, well, you get the picture. Streak, operating under a blog alias at Streak’s Blog, has the Republicans in a chokehold gasping for breath and they don’t even know it. And then there are homeschool bloggers, Spunky, Homeschrewling, and Why Homeschool? that are all worth your time.

I have been involved in good discussions on all these blogs yet I have also seen some conversations degenerate into ugly firefights totally unbecoming of the Godblogoshere. In a recent discussion, I watched someone call a person’s salvation under question just because he did not agree with his point of view. I understand and I have no problem with anonymity and blog aliases but if you are using these to fly under someone’s radar and make hurtful and snide comments, and believe you are getting away with it, please know and understand this: you do not escape God’s attention and there will be a reckoning.

We are all out here in the blogosphere to learn, be edified and encouraged, discover differing points of view, prove why we believe a certain way, yet never in a derisive fashion. Iron sharpens iron, and yes it does make sparks at times, but this is no excuse to be mean. Be passionate, uphold your convictions, but don’t resort to meanness. There is always room for more humility. Remember, there is a person on the other side of that computer screen that isn’t an argument to be won or a point to be proven.

My brother pastor totally missed the point of his own argument. Though belief in special creation is not a prerequisite for salvation, how much more effective could he have been in her life if he actually was a pastor to her, instead of being so dead-set against her? Convictions do not develop overnight, nor are they formed in a vacuum. We all are and can be part of that great process; imagine what you can miss otherwise. God makes allowances for each one of us to develop convictions; test them, try them, see if they hold up under divine scrutiny. Afford your brother or sister in Christ the same luxury.

Thanks for reading.

Sincerely,
Tony

11 comments:

Raborn Johnson said...

Excellent post, Tony! It is a shame how many times believers write off others simply because they don't see things in quite the same way. I think that this was a great follow-up to your last post "What would...the Amish do?". Sometimes I wonder how revealing our actions really are; to believers and unbelievers alike. After all, Jesus didn't say "you will know them by their systematic theology (doctrines, etc.)", rather He said "you will know them by their fruit".

No matter how much "truth" someone seems to have a grasp on, I am always cautious to receive it when it is not coupled with love. The Bible does not say that our understanding or doctrine will never fail, but it does say that "love never fails". Thanks for reminding us Tony!:)

Tim A. Blankenship said...

Tony,
Thank you for the thoughts you have given. We all need to practice courtesy, patience, and forbearance with one another.
We are all imperfect vessels of God. We need to listen to the words, "He's still working on me."

Steve Sensenig said...

Very, very well-said, Tony. I appreciate the friendship we have, and, as I have said to others with whom I discuss theological differences, our differences are so small compared to that which binds us together in Christ.

It causes me deep sadness to hear this story of what happened in your homeschool group. Perhaps the words you have spoken to this other pastor will eventually find a place in his heart, and he will realize that you were speaking the love and grace of God to him.

Be blessed, brother!
steve :)

Les Puryear said...

Tony,

We really have problems when people start saying that salvation is "Jesus plus" anything else. It's all about Jesus!

Grace and peace to you.

Les

Tony said...

Raborn,

Did you really post this comment at 1:42 AM??!!??

Seriously, thanks. Love never fails. Truer words have never been spoken. Truth without love is just cold orthodoxy, unappealing and crass.


Tim,

Thanks for reading and the blessing of your blog. I so appreciate the grace and courtesy you display as well.


Steve,

Likewise, I appreciate your friendship. I did talk with my brother pastor and I encouraged he and his family to come and jump back in with us. However, he said too much water had gone under the bridge. Though he didn't say it, the look on his face said everything. He was ashamed of himself yet his pride was still in the way. I still pray for him and his family.


Les,

Thanks, my friend. Jesus is thankfully enough, amen?


Everyone,

As I look at this list of commenters, there are blatant theological differences and we all disagree with one another on minor points of doctrine. Yet look at what binds us all together.

May you all know the peace of Christ.

Sincerely,
Tony

Spunky said...

I wish I could say that your homeschool situation was uncharacteristic of coops. But it's sadly more the norm.

Allowing for differences is not the same as accepting the differences. It is often hard for people to understand that. From personal experience, I know that making this distinction has been helpful in having a discussion without it being reduced to questioning their salvation.

Tony said...

Hi Spunky,

Thank you so much for coming by.

We have made it a point in our hs group to allow for differences but this family was the exception that proves the rule. Fortunately, he caused no schism among us, and though I was deeply saddened that he and his family saw no alternative but to go, unwilling to work with some differnces, it was for the best so as to preserve the overall cohesiveness of our group.

Many blessings,
Tony

Earl said...

Tony,

When my blog grows up, I want it to be like your's.

Yet another well written entry.

Tony said...

Earl,

Thank you. You are always gracious and kind.

Many blessings,
Tony

Gordon Cloud said...

Very well-written post, Tony. I really appreciate your heart in this matter. It is a blessing to be able to discuss differences among fellow bloggers and Christians without getting into judging.

Thanks for the kind remarks and the link.

God bless.

Tony said...

Gordon,

You are right; it is a blessing to be able to discuss important theological concerns with like-minded and like-hearted believers.

Thanks for your blog; you are always an encouragement.

Blessings,
Tony