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A Theology of Acquiescence

acquiescenceOne of my best friends and I agree we’re going to work out together at the gym. We get all excited about the possibilities related to this new strategic partnership. First, we’ll be able to hang out together on a consistent basis. We are both married with kids so it is increasingly more difficult to have consistent “guy time.”

Second, since we are both believers in Jesus we will be able to sharpen each other spiritually as we talk about the Lord in between reps. We will also have opportunities to minister together as we are able to share the hope within us to the other gym rats.

Third, our wives will give us that look as we turn into lean mean fighting machines. Enough said on that point.

Fourth, our children will be happier as we have more energy for them. Our energetic healthy bodies will engage our kids instead of handing them an iPad and sending them away.

I could go on and on dreaming up all the benefits resulting from me and my buddy working out together. But this is just an illustration so let’s not get carried away. So my buddy and I now start talking about the details of our workouts. We’ll definitely hit the weights. Bench Press. Lat Pulldowns. Curls. Yes, we are both getting excited. We both enjoy running so we’ll spend some time every week doing laps on the indoor track. That’ll be great.

Then my buddy opens his mouth and says the worst thing, “Oh, I love swimming. We gotta spend some time busting out laps at the pool.” Dang. He had no idea but I hate swimming. I know how to swim. I like to swim outside on a hot summer day but not laps at a gym. That’s not my thing. Here we were so excited to work out together. We agreed on pretty much everything but now he wants to swim and that’s not my thing.

How do we move forward? This is just one part of our workout strategy. He loves to swim and would like to make it part of our plan. I want to leave it out. What if I offered a solution saying, “Let’s compromise, let’s not swim.” Would that really be a compromise? Of course not, I’d be getting my way. It wouldn’t be a gracious move. The situation is of a nature where I automatically win and get my way if any solution involves us not swimming.

Did you catch that? If you didn’t you’ll move straight to the comments and start ranting without “getting” the idea of the post.

Swimming would require me to be selfless. Swimming would require me to consider our relationship above my preferences. Swimming would require grace on my part. If we decide to swim, additionally, my friend would need to show grace by not making fun of me. If my friend is always talking about how swimming is the best of all workouts and always trying to get me to love swimming then he is not considering our friendship above his interests.

If I agree to swimming being a part of our workout routine, then I am acquiescing to my friend. I am silent on my disdain for swimming for the sake of something better (us working out together). Ok, this is not a post about swimming. This is a post about theology.

If you’ve been a Christian for a while you should have several relationships where you have acquiesced. You should have several spiritual workout partners who like to swim. In these relationships you have decided to minister together above a secondary point of doctrine. Here’s an example. Imagine if I told you, “I only associate, go to church with, and minister alongside Christians who hold to the northern theory of Galatians.” Wouldn’t you think that I’m a moron? Now, you might already think I’m a moron without the Galatians stuff but wouldn’t it seem silly for me to divide over the northern/southern Galatians theory debate?

In Christian theology there are a few essential orthodox topics that are non-debatable. If someone approached me and said, “Let’s go and tell people about Jesus together and be in Christian community together. I just need to let you know, however, I don’t believe in the Trinity. Is that ok?” I could not approach the situation in the same way as a workout partner who wants to swim. The Trinity is at the heart of what it means to be Christian. I could not be in “Christian” community and speak a “Christian” message about Jesus if we are not embracing the same essential “Christian” definition of God as Trinity. The Trinity is a non-negotiable essential.

There are many other aspects of Christianity, however, that are important but not essential. These are “swimming” type issues. These are the acquiescable issues (yes, I think that’s a word). Here’s the REAL issue provoking this post.

I’m in the process of becoming an elder at my church. There are thousands of things I love about my church. I love our absolute focus on Jesus. I love the church is intentionally engaged on the frontline of ministry. We seek to be just as comfortable walking alongside the homeless meth addict and the mayor of Moore. We take a strong stand for truth but we aren’t separated from culture. I could go on and on about the aspects of my church I love. In my church there are two aspects, from my perspective, where the other leaders have said, “We like swimming.”

The two areas are praying in tongues and spiritual gifts of prophecies. Our church would broadly be defined as Continuationist while I lean more toward a Soft Cessationism. If I want to be a part of advancing the gospel in my city with this local church I can’t say, “Guys, let’s compromise. Let’s just not swim.” That wouldn’t be a compromise, it would be me getting my way. This is an opportunity for acquiescence. It’s an opportunity for our city to see love in the midst of difference. It’s an opportunity to live out the centrality of Jesus rather than northern-galatian homogenous church.

I’ve been around people who occasionally pray in tongues and I don’t think it’s from Satan. One Sunday morning my wife had been in extreme chronic pain and we asked a lady to pray for us. We all had tears in our eyes. We were all praying for my wife in the name of Jesus. The lady then prayed in tongues for a little while. We knew she was praying to Jesus for my wife to be healed. That was good enough for me. You see half the time I don’t even know what people praying in English are talking about. What are traveling mercies anyway? What does that really mean? How about bless this food to our body? Is that asking for your food to not secretly be poison?

Anyway, this is not a post about those two spiritual gifts mentioned in 1 Corinthians 12-14 and elsewhere. It’s about my decision to acquiesce on this issue. I realized I wanted to be a part of this body of believers. We are lined up on the essentials of the faith. We love each other. We are excited to work out. They know my preference isn’t to swim laps every day but I am also not trying to get them to stop. I acquiesce and we move forward for Jesus.

It would be a different story if I didn’t know how to swim. There are some non-essential issues where I would have to say, “I don’t know how to swim. If this is something you really want to do then we’ll have to find different workout partners.” For me a non-essential issue I could not acquiesce is female lead pastors. It’s not because I think women are bad leaders it’s just because I think God clearly told us men need to fulfill those roles. I still consider people who disagree with me believers if they trust Jesus. We aren’t enemies but I know that issue is not one where I can acquiesce. I couldn’t swim with a female lead pastor (that’s probably a good thing anyway since I’m married).

Here’s my question to you. Please take at least a moment to examine yourself on this issue. Do you have a practical theology of acquiescence? Do you have a northern-Galatia-only faith? Is it just you four and no more and you’re not sure about the other three? Or, have you locked arms with people who aren’t completely lined up but are equally enthralled with Jesus? Let’s all have areas where WE take the lead and acquiesce.

14 Responses to “A Theology of Acquiescence”

  1. I can’t help it, I have to say it again. This is a fail of Protestant ecclesiology. You have to submit to your church about issues you don’t believe in because you like a lot of stuff about the church and you have to cave in to fit in. Every man for himself… sort of, except not. As if it isn’t hard enough much of the time to actually figure out what you believe, you have to figure out the relative importance of everything you believe and decide just how far and where and when you will compromise your beliefs for the sake of unity. Oh, and the bible doesn’t say which ones to compromise on, you have to make up the rules yourself.

    These kind of things are why I became Orthodox. I just can’t cope with all that. I used to try, sure, but it was hell. Always second guessing who was right, who was wrong, who was close enough, and who was not close enough. Thinking (or hoping!) I had the authority to sit in judgement on Christendom. Too tough for me, sorry. More power to you amateur theologians with more wisdom than Solomon.

  2. Sometimes I will see a movie I don’t particularly want to see because my friend wants to see it and I want to be with my friend. The movie is non-essential to our friendship, and is not a critical part of my behavior, so I can give a little, get a little.
    But if my friend said, come, let us go to the pagan temples and worship other gods, then I would insist that we go swimming instead. Or anything else. At that point, my friendship is in dissolution because of the critical issue at stake.
    My point is Jesus taught that nothing is worth giving up important stuff. Not favors at church, not status, and not even the whole world.
    Sometimes people respect you for not giving in to popular demands. And sometimes you go out and make new friends.

  3. John has one good point -that in Protestantism, there is much confusion over what is essential or not, AND who gets to say so, AND who gets to say who gets to say. Still, there is much good in Tim’s post.

    Let’s be more precise in our distinctions. What we aquiesce on could be true/untrue, or it could be just matters of opinion/differences in approach (not necessarily false).

    One opinion/approach matter in Catholicism is which mass is best, the old Latin mass, or the new English mass. The Church has said both are valid and has made provision for the practice of both. Some Catholics get ridiculously worked up in their preferences. Personally, I appreciate both, so it’s not a problem for me. Something that is an acquiescence for me is music style. Contemporary guitar music vs. strong stately hymns on the organ. Neither is false, but I have a strong preference for the latter. And so I acquiesce (how long, Lord?!)…

    The OP deals more with acquiescing on matters of theology, not practice. It is much harder to acquiesce on matters which are true or untrue. But it can be done in the Church, too. Ex: if necessary, a Catholic may receive Communion from an Orthodox priest, even though the two churches differ on the true/untrue issue of Petrine authority. Petrine authority (or not) is considered an “essential”, but still, differences are tolerated, when need be.

    Another possibility is a true/untrue issue, for which truth or untruth is not known for certain. In Catholicism, an example is limbo of the children, or salvation of unbaptized infants.

    It’s good to think about potentially divisive issues, in terms of whether they are truth/untruth or opinion/approach, and in terms of essential/nonessential. Issues would then fall into one of four categories that are combinations of these. But no doubt that categorization, too, would involve acquiescence.

  4. John,

    When I read the Bible, especially the epistles, I see the writers doing a lot of theological teaching. Not because they already have a sort of ecclesiological unanimity but because they are prayerfully seeking to learn, grow and minister together as followers of Jesus and coming to places of unity to walk together. Paul and Barnabas even separated because they couldn’t come to consensus. The Bible doesn’t seem to condemn one and compliment the other, instead they were wrestling with coming up with decisions in light of the Gospel. I don’t think the necessary solution would have been…those guys should have simply had an ecclesiastical structure where a leader could have said one is wrong and one is right.

    I’m not trying to tell you that Eastern Orthodoxy is wrong but I hope you will appreciate that there are pros and cons for both. A heavy ecclesiastical leadership can make all those theological decisions for you. As you referred, allow only the professionals be theologians, but that also has some cons associated with that position.

    My desire in this comment is not to have an Eastern Orthodox vs. Protestant conversation. It’s simply to reveal that I’m not sure the clear solution is to allow someone else, a professional theologian, to make these decisions for you.

    Let me know what you think,
    Tim

  5. CJ,

    My main point in all this post is to ask us if we do have a life where we are able to theologically acquiesce? If you are always only ministering with people who are 100% like you then people are missing some of the beauty when people walk together even with some differences.

    Yes, there will definitely be times when we say no to entering a pagan temple. Unfortunately, however, I think many Christians make every issue a pagan temple.

    -Tim

  6. Irene,

    Thanks for entering into the heart of the post and wrestling with those acquiescence issues. It’s interesting to read your comments from a Roman Catholic position. Yes, a strong ecclesiastical structure makes some of these decisions for the entire body but it’s good to hear there is still room for acquiescence in those other areas.

    -Tim

  7. I remember J. Vernon McGee (Through the Bible radio) saying that some of his friends were pentecostal. He didn’t speak in tongues himself but he didn’t hold it against them for speaking in tongues. I tend to accept what other Christians believe as they progress in their spiritual growth, unless it contradicts what the Bible teaches. I left my old church because a pastor was hired who believed that abortion was OK and that gay marriage was OK. Up to 1/2 the congregation also believed this. If it was only the congregation and not the pastor who believed this I would have stayed and prayed that God would open their eyes, which I do anyway.

  8. Truth Unites... and Divides March 13, 2014 at 6:32 pm

    Q: “Do you have a practical theology of acquiescence?”

    Infant baptism
    egalitarianism except for female senior pastor.
    Errant Scripture
    Theistic Evolution
    Arminianism
    Liberal Democrats who vote for pro-abortion, pro-gay marriage political leaders.

  9. Great analogy Tim. All of the ‘isms in the world, one would think we’d have gotten our “stuff” together by now. How dis-information spreads is a science in itself.

    Example: since the Prohibition, people use prohibitionist logic to translate verses that reference wine. Some verge on the absolute nutty such as this one: http://www.robertroberg.com/writings/wine.html

    Another great example is Clarence Larkin. He is responsible for more urban myth theology than anyone else I can think of because he published a picture book outlining dispensationalism and the last days timelines found here:
    http://clarencelarkincharts.com/
    Because of the pretty pictures, his stuff is still being taught, even though so much is easily disprovable.

    And let’s not forget Chick publications that produce the most outlandish coloring books that some have actually used in “schooling” me on textual criticism: http://www.chick.com/reading/tracts/0998/0998_01.asp

    So it drives me crazy when some of my best friends fall for this stuff. It is right up there with snake handling, or spitting your food out because you forgot to pray for it (it might become poison!). Don’t laugh, I’ve seen people do this!

    I’m probably making the argument for Orthodoxy. But then all you have to do is watch “Secrets of the Vatican” on PBS and that will show you the weaknesses of that system. So all system are flawed, all theologies are subject to chaos theory (spinning out of control) and our fellow Christians are driving us crazy telling especially when they say they can’t play basketball with us because we don’t use the 1611 KJV!

    We need a lot of grace.
    Love this site BTW.

  10. such a great post. thanks. thinking how the Lord knew exactly all the difficulty that would transpire even as He prayed (John 14,17) ; considering too the Father’s joy in His planning all the benefit to His children of His working out this struggle in us together, His own children!!!

    may He bestow HIS joy upon US together in this struggle too!

    John 14: 27 Peace I leave with you; My peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you. Do not let your heart be troubled, nor let it be fearful.

    John 17: 22 The glory which You have given Me I have given to them, that they may be one, just as We are one; 23 I in them and You in Me, that they may be perfected in unity, so that the world may know that You sent Me, and loved them, even as You have loved Me.

  11. Yo, Tim Kim: Yes, some people make mountains out of molehills; my scriptural citation is support that we are to exercise discernment and not simply go along with anything for the sake of unity, or whatever. Pagan temples is perhaps “ad absurdum”, but what about contemplative prayer? I’ve encountered this but did not consider it a contract breaker. Still, if there is something that is wrong, I can’t have complete peace about it, even though I can love and fellowship with those who do. I can love those who aren’t perfect, in my opinion (LOL).

  12. It really annoys me that I don’t know everything. If I knew exactly who is a doctrinal villain and who is not, my address book would be filled in properly.
    Apostle Paul tells us that we will know all, but just not now. However we have the sometimes annoying task of loving others and preserving unity in Christ without perfect knowledge. I doubt that our love is perfect, either. But our love is not blind.

  13. Tim wrote: “The Bible doesn’t seem to condemn one and compliment the other, instead they were wrestling with coming up with decisions in light of the Gospel. I don’t think the necessary solution would have been…those guys should have simply had an ecclesiastical structure where a leader could have said one is wrong and one is right.”

    I don’t think the nature of Orthodox thought is that “a leader will tell me who is right”.

    Rather, the Church has a structure and a framework for “wrestling with decisions in light of the Gospel”. It’s not me, myself and I, locking myself in a dark room and deciding. Rather the church catholic wrestles collectively. Sometimes that wrestling goes against what many leaders were saying. But the wrestling happens collectively.

  14. All religions are astro-theology based… look up… what’s in the heavens. They just don’t tell you that :)

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