Theology in 3D

Managing Our Differences, Part 10

Layton Talbert | December 6, 2021

This is the final post in a series on managing our differences. Here’s a recap of the biblical principles we’ve explored along the way:

1. God uses only flawed vessels because that’s all he has. (Part 1)
2. God can use our differences to advance his kingdom. (Part 2)
3. God uses our differences to glorify himself. (Part 3)
4. We need to understand why we disagree. (Part 4)
5. Sometimes it is appropriate to disagree (even vigorously). (Part 5)
6. Don’t confuse righteous indignation with the wrath of man. (Part 6a)
7. Every believer is individually accountable to the Master. (Part 6b)
8. The problem is not our differences but the mismanagement of our differences. (Part 7)
9. Unity is not a goal; it’s a fact. Act like it. (Part 8)
10. Keep the bigger picture in view: he’s not the enemy; he’s a brother. (Part 9)

That brings me finally to this initially dubious-sounding conclusion:

11. Celebrate perspicuity!

How’s that for a rallying cry? My word choice here is partly humorous, but mostly serious. We are bombarded with the cry to “celebrate diversity!” Here’s another angle on that.

Underneath our differences in interpretation and application as brothers and sisters in Christ is a doctrine that is central to our theological heritage: the perspicuity of Scripture. (For an excellent and thorough study of this concept, see Mark D. Thompson, A Clear and Present Word: The Clarity of Scripture.)

Kevin DeYoung notes that

perspicuity is one of the foundations for religious liberty in the West. Implicit in the affirmation of Scripture’s clarity is the recognition that individuals have the responsibility and the ability to interpret Scripture for themselves. . . . [That has never excluded the gifts of means, and the gifts of men, that God has given to the Church. LT] Of course, this . . . doctrine has opened a door to all sorts of problems—factions, eccentric interpretations, rampant individualism, and the like. But despite these dangers, the freedom that perspicuity protects is worth the cost. . . . The biblical doctrine of perspicuity can be abused. But a raft of bad interpretations and the sometimes free-for-all of Protestantism is still worth the price of reading the Bible for ourselves according to our God-given (and imperfect) consciences. Freedom of religious inquiry and expression would not be possible without confidence in the clarity of Scripture.

Taking God at His Word, 67-68

Every difference and disagreement is a reminder that God has spoken his words not just to one man but to all, not just to a spiritual hierarchy or a scholarly aristocracy but to his people.

And every difference and disagreement that is well-managed is a testimony that, despite those differences and disagreements and even divisions, we are (if I may modify Samuel Stone’s words to this context)

elect from every nation, yet one o’er all the earth,
our charter of salvation: one Lord, one faith, one birth.
One holy name we bless, partake one holy food,
and to one hope we press, with every grace endued.

May we seek, and may God grant, the grace to live in light of the unity of the body of Christ by agreeing where we can, being willing to disagree and even divide when we must, and managing those disagreements and divisions well—to the glory of God.

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