“No one has the right to force their particular beliefs on anyone and everyone.“
There’s something interesting about being a lurker when it comes to conversations online. It’s sort of like eavesdropping on a spoken conversation that you’re not really supposed to listen in, but you just couldn’t help it because you know a thing or two about the topic of discussion.
The argument is that every Christian has a duty to judge other Christians. (1 Cor. 5) In this context, ‘judge’ is left undefined. There’s no limit on what can be judged or how the judgement takes place. The person goes on to say that a divisive person ought to be warned twice and then to cut off all contact with them. (Titus 3) Also, people who don’t adhere to the teaching as it was delivered ought to have the same treatment (2 Thes. 3).
Not only is that a masterful stitching together of New Testament verses out of context to form a belief, it gives the person who holds it almost unlimited power. After all, they get to define what the correct teaching is, they get to judge people who do not adhere to it, they get to warn them twice to change their ways, and then they get to shun them while playing the Biblical Inerrancy card and kicking out anyone that they think isn’t Christian enough.
The application, however, can be anything but righteous: One day, Eugene discovers irregularities with the church’s books. He asks the deacon, Michael, if he knows anything about it. Michael assures Eugene that there is nothing untoward going on that he knows of but it’s something he should keep to himself for now while he looks into it. Michael reports to Luke, his accomplice what has happened. Luke begins to cover his tracks better and spreads the rumor that Eugene has begun gossiping hurtful and hateful things behind Michael’s back to the rest of the congregation. Pastor Donald asks Michael and Luke for their side of the story. Michael makes up an amazingly convincing lie (he thought about what to say all week) he says that there was a disagreement about a particular theological teaching that he went to see Eugene about to smooth things over by himself, but he wouldn’t listen, so he brought in Luke so that ‘the matter would have two or three witnesses like the Bible says’ but it didn’t work. Pastor Donald speaks with Eugene separately to try to fix things, but he’s confused because he has no idea what’s going on. Pastor Donald has no choice but to righteously judge Eugene by the facts, he’s being divisive. He’s been warned. He won’t turn from the error of his ways. So there’s nothing left to do but disfellowship him. His reputation in the town is gone and none of the other churches are willing to welcome him in their doors. Michael and Luke continue to get away with taking money from the church for their own personal use and nobody knows about it or holds them accountable (in this case, the pastor gets a slightly larger percentage than usual to soothe his conscious – granted, this particular scenario is fictional; but the overall manipulation and scheming behind closed doors is all too real).
You see, having a duty to judge other Christians is an incredibly useful tool to weed out the sincere believers who ask the wrong questions, who study the Bible for themselves and come up with a different conclusion, or to scare anyone of the consequences of not falling in line like everyone else. It’s a tool that can be used to take away deep friendships, destroy families, and isolate a person from a community that used to love them. That’s what happens when it’s used by the guilty against the innocent.
If you teach it right, then even the innocents will police each other’s beliefs for you. They would be constantly questioning whether or nor everyone believes correctly and debating among themselves trying to turn the errant sisters and brothers back to the truth as they know it that they wouldn’t spend time ‘looking after orphans or widows in their distress’ (James 1). That’s what was happening in this instance. A sincere believer sincerely believed it was his or her duty to judge other Christians who were not teaching what he or she believed to be sound doctrine. Starting off with 2 Cor. 10, the idea was to demolish the errant teaching using 2 Tim. 3 to affirm that the Bible’s doctrine is useful for correction to build the foundation from which they were going to attack the mistaken theology of the incorrect brother or sister using any number of other verses to bring them around. All it does is create a Christianity where the most crucial task is keeping each other on the straight and narrow, while carefully avoiding the truth of Scripture; for example: “Don’t feed the hungry – that’s entitlement! It is written that whoever doesn’t work doesn’t eat.” (2 Thes. 3) But Matthew 25 clearly shows that whoever fed the hungry would be rewarded – Our reputation is worse when it comes to other sins and social issues.
That’s the funny thing about the Bible. Nowhere does it promise any special prize for memorizing verses or debating application or forcing your beliefs upon others. It talks a lot about loving one another, putting up with one another, bearing with one another, helping one another, feeding one another, sheltering one another, providing for one another, caring for one another, and even teaching one another and learning from one another. It never asks us to believe exactly the same things in exactly the same ways. It never asks us to make everyone else change their beliefs to ours in order for us to accept them as one of us. They only way for people to make the Bible say what they want it to is by cutting up the Bible into chapters and verses and pasting only the relevant ones in order to make it happen. They can make the Bible say anything – ‘Seed-faith teachings’, ‘Prosperity gospel’, ‘Servant leadership’, etc. it’s in there with all of the other teachings they have yet to cut’n’paste together. It’s odd isn’t it, for believing in an inerrant and infallible Bible, they have to ignore so much of it to get it to say what they believe it says.