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How to Disagree About Theology Without Kicking Each Other Out of the Church

christian dogma

Humans are tribal.

This is not a new insight. We’ve been splitting ourselves into groups based on any and every available characteristic for millennia.

In her important new work, Political TribesYale’s Amy Chua writes:

We crave bonds and attachments which is why we love clubs, teams, fraternities, family.

But though this inbuilt tribalism pushes us toward positive engagement and creation of community, it has its dark side, too. Chua notes:

[T]he tribal instinct is not just an instinct to belong. It is also an instinct to exclude.

Danger of Christian Dogma

Christianity does not erase our tribalism. But it should transform it—recreate it into something useful in service to God and others. At its best, our tribal instinct can help motivate us to love our neighbors well, to put down roots and serve our communities in love.

Following Jesus, for we were all once “separate from Christ, excluded from citizenship in Israel and foreigners to the covenants of the promise, without hope and without God in the world.” Yet now, we “who once were far away have been brought near by the blood of Christ.”

God in Jesus has brought reconciliation to those both near and far, killing our hostility and “creat[ing] in himself one new humanity.”

Should We Alert the Heresy Police?

Yet our tribal instinct is not always at its best. Even inside the church, it is often at its worst.

Instead of seeing ourselves as one body of Christ—varying in theology, culture and giftings, but united by our focus on Jesus—we default to that instinct to divide and exclude.

We like to police the margins, and we can all too easily escalate any disagreement into a declaration of heresy.

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Bonnie Kristian is the weekend editor at The Week and fellow at Defense Priorities. Her writing has also appeared at other publications, including Time, CNN, Politico, The Hill, Relevant Magazine, Rare, The American Conservative, and more. In 2016, Bonnie graduated from Bethel Seminary with an M.A. in Christian Thought. Her book, "A Flexible Faith: Rethinking What It Means to Follow Jesus Today" is will be released in May of 2018.