When the Other Guy Is Missing His Camel

One of the reasons Christians get tangled up in worship wars is that they fail to realize that something can be relatively unimportant theologically, but still be of immense practical importance. And then, when they realize that “something important” is going on when it comes to this practice, and conflict has started to heat up over it, they assume that this must mean that the issue really is of immense theological importance. That being the case, they start to hunt around for weighty reasons that would justify having such a conflict.

Everybody knows that church fights shouldn’t be over petty issues. So when a church fight is in the making, none of the petty reasons can be appealed to, for that would sound . . . petty. The reasons have to be lofty, and when all else fails, you can resort to the secret motives of your adversaries. This is why church fights escalate so easily. You can’t fight if it is petty, and since you are fighting, it naturally “must not be” petty. To create turmoil in the church over the fact that one elder strains out gnats differently than does another elder would strike an onlooker as stupid. This is why it is crucial to insist that the other guy is missing his camel. This gets somewhat complicated if there are actually two or more camels.

To illustrate. My postmillennialism is one of the key elements in my systematic framework of doctrine. It is right up there in the top three issues that I regard as essential to reformation in our day. Whether I am right in this is not the point right now — the point is that I believe this, and yet someone could join our church and attend for a couple years before finding out that I was postmill.

 

In contrast, take another issue — the singing of Goudimel psalms from the 16th century. That is ranked about seventeenth in my framework of things needful, and yet visitors find out that we do that on the very first Sunday they attend. The second Sunday is the same, and so forth.

These are things that are theologically less important, but we do them (or not) all the time. I don’t wear a robe every Sunday, and I almost never wear my cowboy boots. One of the early fathers of the church summarized the way “this kind of important” functions — lex orandi lex credendi. The law of prayer is the law of faith. Liturgy shapes faith over the course of generations. So it is important in one way, and not in another.

In the meantime, the best thing in the world to remember is that love of Christ balances the heart. Having done so, the love of Christ also — believe it or not — unties every liturgical knot.

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