Why Are There So Many Disputes Between Bible Believers?

I want to highlight the problem of the huge differences between Evangelical Christians who believe the Bible is God's Word [The question concerning who or what is an Evangelical is vague, even though they have convened lectureships to help decide who or what is one]. I mean, come on, here are Christian people who claim to believe the Bible is divine guidance for all of life, ethics, and salvation. They claim atheists do not have such a standard and that theirs is firm as a rock. With such a standard you’d actually think that Christians all over the world would see things fairly uniformly, whether it’s the Russian Orthodox Church, or the Black Southern Churches; whether it’s the Lutheran Church of Germany, or Roman Catholics of Italy; whether it’s the Episcopal Church in England, or the Amish in Northern Indiana. There are Methodists, Disciples of Christ/Church of Christ Churches, Reformed Churches, Presbyterians, Mennonites, Assemblies of God, and a host of smaller groups including many groups that some others would call cults, like the Seventh Day Adventists, Mormons, Jehovah's Witnesses, and the Moonies.

But let me just stick to Evangelical Christianity here in America. After all, they claim to believe in the inspired, infallible and even inerrant Word of God, and they live in the same country. How goes the unity that Jesus prayed for them (John 17:21), or that Paul demanded (I Corinthians 1:10)?

There are several major dividing denominational issues, which cause splits in the local churches. Some of these issues include, the role of women in the church, the nature of charismatic gifts, the nature of the Bible, the issue of soteriology and sanctification, Calvinistic predestination/election, eschatology, church polity, and of course many ethical, political and social issues, like the war in Iraq, capital punishment, the separation of church and state, euthanasia, and even abortion and cloning. So what do you make of this phenomena among Evangelicals who have the only sure revelation from God? What's wrong with this picture?

How can the Christian explain this situation, since he or she believes in the Holy Spirit's guidance? Where's that guidance?

First posted 2/13/06

18 comments:

Don Jr. said...

If non-Calvinists debated this issue here they would prove the whole point of my post!

What is the point of your post? (Christians disagree therefore Christianity is a sham?)

John W. Loftus said...

Don Jr., the title asked you this question: "Why Are There So Many Disputes Between Bible Believers?" You answer this question. Why?

I would think that just as Christians should exhibit better than average behavior because they alone claim to have God the Spirit residing in them, that they should also have better than average social unity, and better than average doctrinal unity. They have an inerrant standard directly from God along with Holy Spirit guidance, and yet they have disagreements between them just as if they were in opposite political parties!

Is God's revelation so muddled and capable of being misinterpreted that his people do not know what to believe?

So what do you make of this phenomena among Evangelicals who have the only sure revelation from God? What's wrong with this picture?

Now...it's your turn...once again.

Zachary Moore said...

In anticipation of another common Christian rebuttal...

Disagreement among atheists does not, by way of counterexample, disprove atheism. Atheists do not base their beliefs on a supposedly inerrant document.

Don Jr. said...

Evangelicals disagree just like anybody else. That's what I make of it. Since when did disagreement become a "phenomenon"? (Seems a like overdramatic.)

Don Jr. said...

I meant "Seems a little overdramatic" not "Seems a like overdramatic."

John W. Loftus said...

Yes, Don Jr., but I'll offer an answer why Christians disagree with each other. They disagree because they base their beliefs on a historical document that is capable of being interpreted in a number of different ways by people of different passions, needs, presuppositions, ethnics, gender, knowledge, age, scientific understandings, and so on.

I do not believe in the Holy Spirit, and hence there is no supernatural guidance. So I claim that what we see in Christendom is exactly what we should see if there is no guidance from God.

What's your explanation for why Christians disagree so much, even among those who accept the full infallibility of the Bible and live in the same era and country?

Where's God's guidance? Don't know? I do. There isn't any.

Paul Manata said...

John why are there so many disputes between logicians? Maybe logic is false?

Rich Tatum said...

Disputes and interpretive differences are nothing new, they were with us even while the NT was being written. See Paul's disagreement with Peter. See Paul's disagreement with Barnabas. See the differnt leaders Christians followed and weighed one against the other.

This is news?

No. It's human nature. Yes, God gives guidance, but we are unfailingly prone to ignore his guidance, misinterpret the guidance itself despite the light of Scripture, and miscommunicate it even if we have it right.

The most sure guidance the Christian holds to be certain is God's guidance through Scripture. Anything else is right held suspect unless it complements revealed guidance. Unfortunately, even there, dissension rears its ugly head.

If we were perfectly able to follow God's literal, clear, distinct guidance, I suspect Eve would never have taken the fruit, and Adam would never have followed suit.

It's all too easy to look at the flawed adherents to a belief and criticize the giver of that belief as though they represented him in every respect.

I work at an Evangelical organization where I rub shoulders with folks from at least a dozen different deonominations and sects every day, from Assemblies of God to Anglican to Mennonite. We are nothing if not unified in spirit and in purpose. I've never heard an argument or heated word in our hallways.

But, even there, isolated examples of the ideal don't disprove your point, and neither does your point disprove the Gospel.

Regards,

Rich
BlogRodent

John W. Loftus said...

Rich Tatum said...No. It's human nature. Yes, God gives guidance, but we are unfailingly prone to ignore his guidance, misinterpret the guidance itself despite the light of Scripture, and miscommunicate it even if we have it right.

I guess human nature is to blame for everything then. Hmmm. God is never to be blamed, is he? Man is to be blamed for all of the evil in the world, even though God could do something about it and doesn't, and even though we are obligated to alleviate human suffering wherever we can whereas God isn't.

But didn't God know in advance that we would sin?....and if not, why doesn't he give us enough evidence to believe, and/or create us in such a way that sinning was like drinking oil--yes we could still drink it, but we would have an aversion against doing so.

Here, I'm merely asking why God doesn't help Christians through the Holy Spirit to have a more uniform faith. And you are basically saying that God cannot do this. That's very interesting to me.

Why is it that God could not whisper to his people how to interpret the Bible correctly through the Holy Spirit? You say his people "hear" this but reject it? How exactly can someone reject the mind altering influence of the Holy Spirit if the Holy Spirit wants you to understand something when you are reading the Bible? By not doing this God has opened himself up to my charge that there is no Holy Spirit.

Does God not care as much as you do about the souls of the damned, since apparently you want to offer a reason why the Holy Spirit does not guide his peope, whereas all God would have to do is to guide his people?

Rich Tatum said...

Neither one of us can offer objective evidence for either guidance or lack of guidance, I think. And since "all creation groans" from the effects of the Fall, it's speculation on my part but I suppose that (according to my worldview) the effects of sin are pandemic throughtout the created order. That would include our ability to receive, understand, and be compliant to God's guidance.

And why presume God wants a totally uniform faith that is identical for all? Some sects emphasize God's omnipotence. Some emphasize his omnibenevolence. Both are not necessarily wrong since the object of their attetion is presumably infinite and may exceed or ability to capture doctrine about him in finite form.

If God were truly accessible would he truly be a God?

Regards,

Rich
BlogRodent

John W. Loftus said...

It's one thing to say, as I did when I was a ChristiaN, that God may not care that much about uniformity. But look at the status of Christian theology today and the question becomes, did God want chaos? Come on, surely you know that one of the reasons we skeptic debunk Christianity is because there are so many sects and that Christians split off from each other way too often.

And God couldn't do anything about this?

Arthur said...

Hmmm...I wonder if anyone thinks that people can receive guidance from God but reject it, and that this explains or can explain these "many disputes" better than the asssumption that there is no Holy Spirit of God providing guidance.

And I also think that the topic question begs the question and assumes too much. Why is it that I can read John 8:58 today and still come to the same conclusion that John Calvin did centuries ago? That is remarkable agreement over time. We could probably go back even farther and find the same thing. So it's nice to point out disputes, but there's another side to that coin that you cannot ignore, since you may end up falling into the fallacy of special pleading.

Anonymous said...

I liked this question: "Why are there so many disputes among logicians?" Well, for a start, every logician inherited a unique set of genes and had a unique upbringing, so their brains are different. Secondly, because logic can be so darned...illogical, like the following statement:

"This is not a statement."

Brad said...

People are fundamentally believers in God, as our little world that rounds our life from day to day seems meaningless. Different cultures spawn different religions; but they all have one thing in common; a belief in a supreme being. Christianity, Islam, Judaism, Hinduism, and all other religions agree on the big points but argue ceaselessly about the details. Treat others as they would treat you. Live honorably. don't lie. Don't steal. These are the practical points of all major religions. So the question begs: Why are you arguing?

Boz said...

Rich Tatum said: "Neither one of us can offer objective evidence for either [divine] guidance or lack of [divine] guidance, I think."


In that case, the burden of proof suggests that we should accept the default, negative, position that guidance does not exist.

Holding the positive position, that guidance does exist because there is no evidence that it does not exist, is as irrational as assuming that bigfoot/yeti exists because there is no evidence against.

Andreas said...

"John why are there so many disputes between logicians? Maybe logic is false?"
- If there is a dispute among Logicians or Mathematicians, these disputes can be solved by providing a rigorous mathematical / logical proof. If there is a dispute in science, it is solved as soon as somebody comes up with new data and / or a new theory that explains the available data. The opinions of experts in science, maths and logic converge over time while the opinions of theologians diverge over time. Evidence and reason can lead to a consensus among experts, but this practically never happens in theology - even though christians claim that they have divine guidance by the holy spirit for theological matters. If this claim would be correct, and the holy spirit indeed does exist and does aid christians in understanding and interpreting the bible, should we than not expect that theologians would be able to settle some disputes ? How do you explain the fact that there are 33,830(!) different christian denominations (as of 2001 according to the World Christian Encyclopedia) ? Is the holy spirit schizophrenic ?

Harlan Quinn said...

Andreas,
I give that a 10.
and a standing ovation.

Corky said...

In the process of hiding himself, it seems that God is hiding from his followers as well.

"Seek and ye shall find" is only in the mind.

That must be the case because we have Catholics who claim to have found God and then we have Protestants who also claim to have found God.

Out of the tens of thousands of the sects of Christendom there are quite a number who claim even more; that they have "the truth" and are the only "true" Christians. Therefore, all others are not "real" Christians but only call themselves Christians.

If anyone thinks they can make sense of the Christian religion from all these different sects is living in fantasy land. Even the founders of the religion didn't agree with each other. The main writer of the NT changed his mind more often than I change my shirt. It's total nonsense.