As I mentioned in my last post, Tim Challies is stopping by today on his blog tour which is promoting his new book, The Discipline of Discernment.
Those of us who have Tim stopping by get to pose him a question, and we post the answer on the blog. Then, he'll hang out in the comments section today for feedback and interaction. So, without further ado, here's my question and Tim's answer.
In our denomination we ask those seeking to join our church to take five vows, the last of which reads:
Do you submit yourselves to the government and discipline of the Church, and promise to study its purity and peace?
As discernment is a discipline most often associated with protecting the purity of the church, how might this discipline be used to protect the peace of the church? Along with that it might be helpful to note whether you see peace as a subordinate attribute to purity, and therefore contingent on purity, or vice versa, or whether you see these as separate attributes which are equal in importance, or if the two have some other type of relationship I haven’t thought of.
As you have, I’m sure, I’ve often heard Christians say “Doctrine divides.” They may not use those exact words, but many Christians really do believe that a firm and confident emphasis on doctrine in a local church will serve to divide one Christian from another. Far better, they may think, to err on the side of charity and love than to emphasize “mere” theology. Scripture, though, teaches us the opposite. Scripture teaches that peace and unity come when Christians share doctrine and when they are committed to the doctrinal purity of the local church. One need only read the New Testament epistles to witness the Apostles emphasizing unity among Christians and especially unity in local churches. Time and again we see how they correct disruptions in unity: they teach the truth—God’s truth—with confidence that this is the remedy. Purity does not come with peace. Rather, true peace comes with purity.
I have found it helpful to understand discernment as a discipline that functions much as the body’s immune system. Because we are unable to completely avoid contact with germs and contagions, God has given us a remarkable immune system that combats illnesses. When this system is dysfunctional the body is left defenseless. The much publicized HIV virus is a prime example of this—a disease that disables a person’s immune system, leaving his body riddled with disease, infection and tumors. HIV does not actually kill a person. Rather, it leaves him helpless before the onslaught of other diseases. Spiritual discernment is the church’s immune system and is given to us so that we might guard the purity of the church. Without discernment the church quickly and inevitably succumbs to the evil influences that are constantly arrayed in opposition to it.
If we see peace being contingent on purity, which I believe to be the biblical order, we will see that discernment is critical to a person who wishes to “study the church’s purity and peace.” Discernment maintains purity among Christians which in turn promotes peace.
Thanks for this Tim, and now we turn to you, dear readers, for feedback and interaction