Q: As a church you seem to emphasize theology; but doesn’t theology divide churches and denominations, not unify them?
A: The sad truth is that over the years theology has divided churches, but it shouldn’t as much as it does. We view all doctrines in one of three ways: they are either fundamental, supplemental or incidental doctrines.
The fundamental tenets of our faith are what Christ clearly taught and what the early church died for. They are summarized best in the Apostles Creed. These doctrines are what define us as Christians; take one of them away and we can’t really claim to be Christians. In these fundamental doctrines we adhere most fiercely and in them there is no compromise.
Supplemental doctrines were also taught by Christ but not with the same detail as the essential doctrines that he taught. Supplemental doctrines are important to the church, but in them we can have different interpretations and still be the body of Christ. Examples would be baptism or communion… we may disagree as to how and when we conduct these sacraments, but these disagreements do not change our identity as believers.
Incidental doctrines are minor doctrines and should never be a source of disputes among believers; but unfortunately it is in the incidental doctrines that most churches separate. The problem over the years is that too many people have taken incidental doctrines and given them authority that Scriptures themselves do not give them. Speaking in tongues is a good example. Clearly the Scriptures address the matter of speaking in tongues but some would argue that they are essential to being a Christian… a belief that cannot be supported in scripture. These kinds of doctrines should never be the source of disunity among believers because in them we are to exercise grace instead.
John 1:17: The law was given through Moses, grace and truth came through Jesus Christ. Truth is found in the fundamental doctrines. However in all other doctrines the believer must respect the Christian liberty of others and offer grace in all matters non-essential.
Perhaps our position here is best summarized by a statement that came out of the 16th century Reformation: IN ESSENTIALS UNITY, IN NON-ESSENTIALS LIBERTY, IN ALL THINGS CHARITY.