There are convictions that sit somewhere between personal preferences and scriptural truths. Some beliefs I hold so strongly that I will not only use them to order my life, but I am convinced that someone who believes otherwise is just plain wrong. However, even though I think that scripture speaks clearly on the topic, I am not willing to say that someone who believes differently is going against scripture.
One example is homeschooling. I think that Deuteronomy 6 says very clearly that it is the responsibility of the parents to train up their children, and that it is impossible to delegate that task to any significant extent without going against the instructions found in Deuteronomy 6. But I do not think that an advocate of Christian schooling, say Douglas Wilson, is going against scripture in advocating schools. Why? Because I think that when Wilson reads Deuteronomy 6, he doesn’t see what I see in there. He sees confirmation of his own convictions, as honestly as I see confirmation of mine.
As a result, Wilson’s very different opinion about schools has no bearing on whether or not I think that he is a godly Christian. And I can’t imagine how I could constitute a church that would exclude him from joining—or that I would even want to do so. I would happily share a pew with him. However, if I wanted to talk about raising children, I would seek out someone who was on the same page with me about homeschooling.
I think that shared convictions are the basis of true community. We can only talk deeply and seriously about the details of our lives with people who agree with us about how life should be lived. We will only invest ourselves fully in the lives of those who are striving to live the kind of life we want to live ourselves. To put aside our differences on such matters is to deny the importance of our own firmly held beliefs.
And as a result, I think it is unrealistic to expect to forge a single community from a church that didn’t grow out of an existing community. My convictions, however strongly held, cannot be allowed to define the boundaries of my fellowship. I need to be able to share a pew comfortably with someone whom I think is dead wrong about how life should be lived, knowing that on the other side of Jordan one (and possibly both) of us will be laughing about how badly we misread the Bible on that matter.