Room for Debate, especially in the Early Church

Oftentimes, the assertion is made that Christians are close-minded rubes who squelch all or any dissent within their ranks. While the actions of some Christians forms the basis of such assertions, this certainly is not what is modeled in the primtive church in the book of Acts.

For example, in Acts 15 Luke records this,

Some men came down from Judea and began teaching the brethren, “Unless you are circumcised according to the custom of Moses, you cannot be saved.” – Acts 15:1

Obviously this goes against the Gospel Paul preached,

For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not as a result of works, so that no one may boast. – Ephesians 2:8-9

Even so, the men from Judea were not instantly excommunicated and dealt with unfairly.

What did happen was this,

And when Paul and Barnabas had great dissension and debate with them, the brethren determined that Paul and Barnabas and some others of them should go up to Jerusalem to the apostles and elders concerning this issue. – Acts 15:2

Did Paul and Barnabas know these men were in error? Sure. After all, Paul penned Ephesians, not to mention Romans and Galatians. The latter 2 letters focus on the gospel of grace not of works, salvation is given not earned.

Did they react in an emotional and irrational manner to those teachers who were in error? No.

Instead they debated with them, and apparently when that didn’t sway the men from Judea they took the matter to the apostles and elders in Jerusalem.

Of course, the elders in Jerusalem rightly sided with Paul and Barnabas and unity was maintained because everyone submitted to their decision.

How unified would the church be if we discussed things instead of censoring certain teachers? What’s more how much more if the church submitted to the authority of Scripture and stopped trying to make decisions based on feelings or cultural mores?

This post was brought on by what Neil said in a previous post,

Let them all talk. It can’t hurt to listen. You learn when you listen.

Listening to the concerns of the circumcision group helped the early church further define what the gospel was about. Denying them a voice might have alienated them and started a rift that might have led to a heretical branch of Christianity.

2 Responses to Room for Debate, especially in the Early Church

  1. Steve says:

    But that’s not what we do. We tend to choose up sides and bash each other bloody. “In a spirit of Christian love,” of course.

  2. Laz says:

    What is even sadder Steve, is that we bash each other on topics that are not as crucial as the one that came up in Acts 15.

    Thanks for the insight

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