What doctrines can Christians disagree on and still stay brothers?

Holy Kiss (in terms of my Theology the use of this picture is strictly… tongue in cheek)

On Friday an acquaintance from work peered over my shoulder and scanned an email I was typing up (well, acquaintance is such a non committal word isn’t it? I guess we’re more than colleagues, I mean, we’ve been chatting about important stuff for years. Stuff like “America vs The World” and “Crossing the Rubicon”, “the Spanish Flu of 1918” and “ELO ratings”… and Jesus Christ).

Anyways, I was typing a letter to an elder in the church that I attend about our involvement with another church, assisting them with a ministry shortfall that they have. Basically I was expressing some concerns around doctrinal differences and whether or not that should impact our working relationship. I used lofty words like dispensational and covenantal, eschatology and soteriology (I know, I know, I’m such a faker).

Well, the guy isn’t a Christian, but he kind of wants to know a bit about every topic under the sun so he asked, “What is all that?”

Now I have a desire to live 1 Peter 3:15 on my shirt sleeve (and Peter was talking to an audience under far more pressure than I ever experience) and so the conversation got started.

“…but sanctify Christ as Lord in your hearts, always {being} ready to make a defense to everyone who asks you to give an account for the hope that is in you, yet with gentleness and reverence…”

We like to walk and talk so we went for a stroll to the café. About half an hour later I felt mentally exhausted, he was information overloaded and I don’t think anyone of us was any the wiser for the effort.

It was then that he reminded me of a joke I had received from my father a few weeks earlier: “I was walking across a bridge one day, and I saw a man standing on the edge, about to jump off. So I ran over and said, “Stop! Don’t do it!” “Why shouldn’t I?” he said. I said, “Well, there’s so much to live for!” He said, “Like what?” I said, “Well, are you religious or atheist?” He said, “Religious.” I said, “Me too! Are your Christian or Buddhist?” He said, “Christian.” I said, “Me too! Are you Catholic or Protestant?” He said, “Protestant.” I said, Me too! Are your Episcopalian or Baptist? He said, “Baptist!” I said, “Wow! Me too! Are your Baptist Church of God or Baptist Church of the Lord? He said, Baptist Church of God!” I said, “Me too! Are your Original Baptist Church of God or are you Reformed Baptist Church of God?” He said, “Reformed Baptist Church of God!” I said, “Me too! Are you Reformed Baptist Church of God, Reformation of 1879, or Reformed Baptist Church of God, Reformation of 1915?” He said, “Reformed Baptist Church of God, Reformation of 1915!” I said, “Die, heretic scum!” and pushed him off.”


Thing is sometimes we take ourselves (by that I mean Christians) very seriously don’t we, and often for all the wrong reasons. That said, are there any real deal breakers? Well yes, take salvation for instance. Paul said to the church in Galatia:

“…if any man is preaching to you a gospel contrary to what you received, he is to be accursed!”

Heavy words and a clear line in the proverbial sand.

I know I have plenty but what are your deal breakers?


4 thoughts on “What doctrines can Christians disagree on and still stay brothers?

  1. Deal-breakers? Well, the big one is Jesus! As I always say, “If you ain’t got no J.C. you ain’t got no juicey”

    Okay, I’ve never actually said that before, and I have no idea what it means; but from now on I’m going to say it all the time – ‘cos it sounds cool.

    I designed a course once called “Finding God in Finding Nemo” (Hey, I’m a Nemo fan, who knew?) One of the sessions was called “All drains lead to the ocean” and addressed the issue of differences in faith, theology, and conscience.

    It included a lot of good material (if I do say so myself) but the end result is that we need to be common on Jesus, and his neccessity in our salvation. Then we can spend years arguing about how and why it works.

    • Hi Sharky,

      Do clown fish have denominations? I mean are there Anglican clown fish and Methodist clown fish? Do some shoals have an episcopal church government and others a more congregation arrangement?

      I’d definitely agree with you and say that Jesus is a deal-breaker. But what about Jesus is a deal-breaker? His Deity? His Humanity? Substitutionary Atonement? It’s so broad isn’t it. I was reading a post by a guy called Robert just now (he has a interestingly named blog called streetfishing). Anyway the post was about the Athanasian Creed. Fascinating stuff related to the “big one”. Worth a gander.

      Thanks for swimming by,


  2. Firstly let me commend you on your new header. Anything with fish in it works for me. :-)

    Secondly, let me get serious and controversial for a moment. We don’t actually understand how Jesus’s life, death, and ressurection saved us. We know what he tried to teach us, and we have some pretty theories, many of which are scripturally sound. But I’m pretty sure if God tried to explain it to us, our heads would explode. He gives us a glimpse of it, like those pretty pictures we see of atoms splitting when we try to understand nucleur fission. But just as a nucleus scientist would laugh at us if we thought that actually explained anything, I think God would be quite amused if we thought we could actually get it from our own understanding.

    Did you ever notice that the joke always asks “Why” did the chicken cross the road? It never asks “How” even though that is a much more complex question. Yet we hold that the chicken’s motives are more important than how he intended to achieve them by the simple act of crossing the road.

    So I think a belief, and acceptance, in salvation through Jesus is the most important thing. Understanding how it worked comes second.

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