In Essentials, Unity…Never Mind, Let’s Just Abuse Augustine

In discussions of theological error, there is an often erroneously used statement of Augustine which goes something like this:

In essentials unity, in non-essentials liberty, and in all things love.

I say it is misused because in many cases, there are brethren who use it to assuage many in accepting an attitude towards error that is less than biblical, and may in fact be harmful to the Church at large. When Augustine made this statement, there were many who had little or no interest in living a life in conformity to Biblical teachings. Much can be said of Christendom today. Antinomian thinking everywhere, no respect for God’s Laws, ignoring the imperatives –and the blessings resulting from obedience – of the New Testament.

We find in Scripture no instruction, precept, precedent, nothing to indicate that there is some portion of God’s Word that is to be classified as ‘essential’ and other portions to be classified as ‘non-essential’.

It seems to me an absurd thought that any Bible believing, regenerated soul, could imagine themselves standing before the Creator of all things, the Giver of Life itself, and declaring to Him that there are some things He has spoken that may be viewed as ‘non-essentials’, and yet, we see such irreverent attitudes taking place and being proclaimed by Pastors and Christians over the internet repeatedly.

Personally, I find such actions offensive to the glory of God, but then again, who am I? It simply puzzles me how anyone could entertain the idea that some portions of God’s Word to man could be classified as ‘non-essential’. It is the thinking of a rogue, and promotes a low view of God-breathed Scripture.

On the Resurgence website, while discussing heresy in our day and making statements like “not all theological errors are equally serious” there is yet another example of modern day reductionism and yet another widely read lov view of God’s Word.

Even with this narrow and confined definition of heresy, we can still discuss and debate with those whose beliefs are unhelpful. We can still say that their teachings are not a good application of Scripture to life and doctrine. But we treat them not as heretics, but as brothers and sisters with whom we lovingly disagree. As the famous saying goes, “In essentials unity, in non-essentials liberty, and in all things love.”

Such an attitude of humble, charitable engagement stands in stark contrast to the spirit of the blogosphere today. Rather than being fundamentalists who turn disagreement into division, we should contend for the truth with humility and grace. That’s how Jesus treated us.

Unhelpful. What a soothing, calm and defining word. Today, in some circles, particularly the circle of pansies and daffodils, that is a fighting word. In other circles, it holds no weight, makes no impact, and lets a theological lizard slide underneath a log to be safe while still engaging in a conversation. I’ve used it myself in addressing error, but mockingly, and rightfully so.

It should be our desire to be helpful, regardless of our many failures in such attempts. Yet let us never take such a low view of God’s Word to mankind as to think we have the ability, or the right, much less the authority, to classify the Almighty’s only Word to man in categories as ‘essential’ and ‘non-essential’. Such arrogance of man in general, remind me that I am one, and causes me to tremble and examine myself and my own view of God’s Word.

Brethren, I say this in love, the Bible is not yours to cherry-pick, to focus only on those truths which make you feel comfortable and safe. The whole counsel of God is being ignored and shoved aside today for a ‘movement’ under the banner of ‘new reformation’ while ignoring the whole counsel of God itself. This can result in nothing less than a low view of God’s Word and antinomian living.

For those who abuse Augustine for self-serving purposes, contrast this low view of the Word of God with that of John Knox. Now, all you young ‘reformers’ – so called, but certainly not by me – to whom do you most relate with? Those who abuse the quote of Augustine – or John Knox?

If we believe in Jesus intellectually yet do not follow Him, we have made a false profession altogether. Augustine is not God’s Word, and although his statement has merit, should not be used to throw ‘love-bombs’ towards those who give greater weight to accurate biblical doctrine than ourselves.

May all those who name the name of Christ, forsake iniquity, and play the man….