“For every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction.” That is what is commonly referred to as Newton’s Third Law of Motion. It appears that this law applies to the area of theology as well!

In the waning years of the 19th century liberalism argued that Scripture could be reconciled with the intellectual advances of the day if one merely abandoned the need to interpret the biblical text literally. One day did not mean one day, virgin birth did not mean virgin birth, and so on.

Christian fundamentalists reacted to this liberal approach by demanding a literal interpretation of the Sacred Text. Every word was inspired and, therefore, every word was absolutely true in its most literal sense.

This reaction led to the resurrection of millenarianism, a doctrine that has been around since the second century AD; a doctrine that depends upon the literal interpretation of Scripture for its survival. As each side of the discussion pressed its case, the chasm between them became impassible. It was not long before one’s view on the Millennial Reign of Christ became a “test of fellowship.” It was not long before all those who believed in a literal 1,000 year reign were on the outside looking in.

Differences of viewpoint are nothing new. The chasms they create aren’t either. The question is, “Do these gaping holes in our relationships honor the God who created us?” T.B. Larimore (1843-1929) didn’t think so. He refused to involve himself in the wrangling of his day. Although he was deeply influenced by staunch participants in the fray, he refused to state his position on the issues publicly. He did not dabble in issues over which “the wisest and best of men disagreed.”

Partisans on both sides of the widening chasm criticized him harshly; each side demanded that he declare his values and decide his loyalty. Instead, he openly fellowshipped with both sides, preached wherever he was invited, was on the list of Preachers for the “opposing party” until 1925, and wrote for religious papers in both groups.

Larimore’s goal was, as was the goal of the first generation within the Stone-Campbell churches, Christian unity. His approach was to “concede to all, and accord to all, the same sincerity and courtesy I claim for myself, as the Golden Rule demands ….”

Chasms in human relationships will always exist. Clearly we must never be the cause of such phenomena. The challenge is to navigate our lives so as to not contribute to their expansion.

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